One stop, shots: Vaccination hubs pop up in hard hit areas like East New York

east new york
Sharon Harrison is unable to walk long distances, so having a vaccination site crop up around the corner from her East New York apartment on Saturday was essential.
Photo by Dean Moses

The effort to get a life-saving jab into the arms of all New Yorkers continues with pop-up vaccination sites in hard hit areas like the Spring Creek section of East New York.

On March 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 12 community based-pop up vaccination sites with the promise to inoculate over 4,000 New Yorkers as part of the state’s commitment to provide equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine while working with community leaders and outreach teams to disseminate shots to those eligible in some of the neighborhoods most-impacted by the ongoing pandemic.

“Reaching underserved communities across the state is critical to a vaccination strategy that serves all New Yorkers, and community-based pop-up sites bring the vaccine directly to those who have been hardest hit by the virus,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As we continue to expand access, we’re also partnering with community leaders to address vaccine skepticism which remains a large problem in underserved communities. Fairness and equity in the vaccine distribution process remain our top priorities and we will not rest until COVID is defeated once and for all.”

COVID-19 infection rates have remained high in various zip codes in East New York and Canarsie, with many still in state-designated red and orange zones. In an attempt to serve those communities, makeshift vaccine hubs were erected for one week only starting March 4.

The community spaces have accommodated approximately 4,000 patients per day across the 12 sites, operated by the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force.

On March 6 and 7, residents in Spring Creek Towers — formerly known as Starrett City — and others who live in the 11239 and 11207 zip codes, were invited to receive their vaccination at a pop-up hub at the Brooklyn Sports Club on Van Siclen Avenue. Within a two-day period, over 1,000 people were treated in the Spring Creek Towers site alone.

Spring Creek Towers is a tight-knit community home to a high-risk elderly population and many more who earn their living as essential workers. Adding to the need is the area’s inaccessibility to other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“We’ve seen people die every day and if we can save one life, it’s worth our 7-day work week,” said Michael Brincat, liaison for the Cancer Center at Maimonides Medical Center, who volunteered his weekend to help distribute the doses.

Brincat and other Maimonides staffers have been working throughout the pandemic, and the medical center is looking to get as many people vaccinated as possible. According to Brincat, Maimonides Medical Center has distributed over 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We at Maimonides are committed to making sure that all New Yorkers have access to the vaccine. We are really working hard to increase access, especially communities like Starrett City where it’s hard to go from place to place,” said Dr. Jenny Tsang-Quinn, who also volunteered her time to help facilitate vaccinations to those in the community.

Many who got the jab in Starrett City this past weekend found the process to be quick and easy.

Sharon Harrison, a Spring Creek Towers resident who is unable to walk long distances, said she received a text message from her development that the vaccines would be available for eligible occupants. “I feel okay, but just a little wary about the side effects mentioned, like fever and soreness,” she said, adding that she only needed to travel around the corner for her first dose. “Hopefully everything will be okay because this is my first time.”

Harrison, like others, said she was afraid to utilize public transportation during the pandemic.

For Josephe Vesprey, a Canarsie resident who works within the New York City Public School system, it was about finding an appointment nearby. “I didn’t want to go to Manhattan,” she said, stressing how fearful she is to travel. She had been trying for weeks to find an appointment she could easily access.

Although the vaccination site was only open for two days, it provided residents a safe, nearby space to receive their inoculation. Maimonides will be returning on March 27 and March 28 to distribute the second dose, and those who celebrate Passover will be afforded an alternative appointment.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.