Our Queens Village van: Dozens more Covid vaccines on a balmy day

Filed Under: Costs, Patients

Covid test bus

Our Queens Village vaccine operation continues to draw traffic and to vaccinate people in this undervaccinated neighborhood on the southeast corner of Queens, bordering on Long Island.

Wednesday, Feb. 23, was a 65-degree day after a long cold winter. It was windy and yet balmy, and the vaccine van across from Ss. Joachim and Anne Church, near Wayanda Park, had a steady stream of visitors all day. The van has been supplied by the Test + Trace division of New York Health + Hospitals since Sept. 23, pretty much every Wednesday and Sunday.

There was a lot of foot traffic and park traffic: Pickup basketball games, jungle-gym climbers, swingers. It’s a week off school in New York City, so there were probably fewer kids than we might have expected on a regular Wednesday.

Also popular was the vaccine location inside of the first floor of the church, in the entryway (not the sanctuary). This service is supplied by Sun River Health, a federally qualified health center that has been able to deliver service inside the church on Wednesdays, focusing on vaccinating children and also delivering Moderna vaccines, including boosters, which have been harder to find that Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Our van  is primarily designed to make vaccines more accessible as part of a grant to expand vaccine uptake in undervaccinated neighborhoods. This work in Queens Village as part of a grant called the Vaccine Equity Partner Engagement program, with The Fund for Public Health in NYC and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, funded by Centers for Disease Control money. Our three media organizations partnering in the grant are ClearHealthCosts, Epicenter-NYC and TBN24.

The initial grant ran from August through January; it has just been renewed through the end of June.

Who we met

Here are some of the people we talked with:

  • Bethany Gumbs, 14, from Far Rockaway, who lost several close relatives to Covid. We were in Queens Village shooting video footage to fulfill our messaging obligations to the Fund for Public Health under the renewed grant. Bethany’s mother didn’t want to do a video for us, but Bethany did. We’ll post it here when it’s edited. She made us cry.
  • Kathy Pringle, the secretary at the church, who has been a moving force in getting our presence there to be rock-solid. Father Nixon, the pastor, has
  • The guy who came to get tested. He didn’t give his name — he’s a United Nations employee, and is not fully vaccinated, so he has to test regularly to work. He lives across Wayanda Park from the van location between the park and the church. He noticed we were there, and came over to get tested. He told us, “you saved me hours.”
  • The woman who came for her second shot with family members. We asked her if she’d do a video for our city obligations, and she said she would except that she’s extremely camera-shy. Her dad and brother were also not interested.
  • One woman who agreed to do a video interview, but when she saw that we were asking her to fill out and sign a consent form to use her video, she said “no.”
  • A mom and two daughters, who said they were there to get vaccinated to be safe, but they didn’t want to go on camera.
  • A number of people who came to get tested, not vaccinated — so if they were not getting vaccinated, they were not candidates for our video series.
  • Several other families and individuals who didn’t want to go on camera.

School vacation

We expected to vaccinate more children. Pringle said she had noticed that a lot of the church’s families and relatives had not come to get vaccinated though they had expressed interest, presumably because of school vacation.

I want to give a huge thank-you to our incredibly hard-working team there: Adriana Proano, managing the site; Lorna Singh; Maggie Sanchez; and Marie-José Pierre.

We may not say this often enough, but the Test + Trace crews can be incredibly efficient and pleasant. Without these essential workers, the van would not be able to function. And the Sun River Health staff, from this federally qualified health center, has been very helpful.

For the day, at the van and the kids’ event, we had a total of 44 vaccines: 28 Pfizer, most of them boosters; Moderna 3, J&J 7, kids 6.

Fifteen people were tested: 8 rapid and 7 PCR tests.

We’ll continue to have both the van on Wednesdays and Sundays, and the Sun River folks inside the church on Wednesdays, through March.

Location: At the corner of Robard Lane and Hollis Avenue, near Ss. Joachim & Anne Church and Wayanda Park, 217-72 Hollis Ave., Queens Village, NY 11429.