The Covid vaccine: Rates drop at our van, despite the new variant of Covid

Filed Under: Costs, Patients

Vaccinations have dropped sharply among people visiting our Covid vaccine van in Queens — and we find ourselves both surprised and not surprised in light of the new BA.2 variant of the Covid virus.

We have been tracking the surge in the new Covid variant in Queens Village in New York City by various measures from the on-the-ground vantage point of our van parked twice a week next to a church in Queens Village, an undervaccinated neighborhood on the easternmost edge of New York City, bordering on Long Island.  People’s responses in general to this new  surge are very different from their responses to the Omicron variant surge last December through February.

As the infection rate rose late last year with Omicron, a lot of people who had delayed getting vaccinated showed up at the van. That surge in vaccinations in December was matched by a surge in people wanting to get tested.

But as infection rates rise in New York City now, in April, with BA.2, only a handful of people are getting vaccinated. Testing has surged, but not to the levels of last December.

It seems clear that many people who wanted to get vaccinated have, although the city reports that large parts of the population have not gotten vaccinated or boosted.

We are seeing some people coming for a second booster, though not that many.

Covid vaccine equity grant

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 been renewed through the end of June.

Our primary activity has been to organize and publicize a New York Health + Hospitals mobile van parked outside the Ss. Joachim and Anne Catholic Church in Queens Village, opposite Wayanda Park. The van has been coming almost every Wednesday and Sunday since late September.

People getting vaccinated against Covid

Here’s what it looked like in December:

Dec. 12: 64 vaccinated. Pfizer 17, J&J 14. Second shots 9, boosters 24
Dec. 15: 41 vaccinated but 60 tested. First-time Pfizer 9, J&J 5; second shots 7; boosters 20.
Dec. 19: 63 vaccinated. First-timers Pfizer 55, J&J 8.
Dec. 22: Outside church, 79 vaccinated; inside the church with Sun River Health, 45 vaccinated. About 300 tested.
Dec. 26: 153 vaccinated. Pfizer 83, J&J 70. Around 150 people tested, around 40 positive.

January was very busy too.

Then, February:

Feb 6:    21 vaccines, 17 tests

Feb. 9:   10 vaccines, 25 tests

Feb. 23:   44 vaccines,15 tests.

Next, March:

March 20: 6 vaccines, 25 tests

March 23: 8 vaccines, 11 tests

March 27: 6 vaccines, 30 tests

Here’s April:

April 10: 3 vaccines, 24 tests.

April 13: 6 vaccines, 21 tests.

April 17: 3 vaccines, 1 test (Easter Sunday)

April 20: 2 vaccines, 21 tests

April 24: 5 vaccines, 41 tests

In-home Covid tests: What’s their role?

We have also been giving out in-home tests, and they’re wildly popular — especially now. The city has supplied us and other community-based organizations in the VEPE program with in-home tests, masks and hand sanitizer for distribution in our communities.

In-home tests were scarce in December and January, but now they’re more available. Previously, PCR or rapid tests at a pharmacy or test site were free or covered by insurance. Now many test sites have shut down. Also, many insurance plans no longer cover them, and uninsured people are getting charged. So a free in-home test, even if it’s not as accurate as the PCR tests, is the preferred option for many.

The paradox of the rise in in-home testing has also caused a huge flaw in the data: In-home tests are seldom reported to health authorities, so they don’t get counted in the infection rate numbers.

The city is reporting that the case rate is stable and the percent positive is moving up only by a bit, but many experts doubt those figures.

“I think the true number of infections in New York City is probably three to five times the number of diagnosed cases these days,” because of home testing, Dr. Denis Nash, a City University of New York professor, told The New York Times.

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

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.

The 2021 Covid vaccine rate at the van

Sept. 23: 60 vaccinated
Sept. 26: 60 vaccinated
Sept. 29: 70 vaccinated
Oct. 3: 61 vaccinated
Oct. 6: No van
Oct. 10: 50 vaccinated, handful tested, cold and rainy (first day we offered testing?)
Oct. 13: 60-70 vaccinated
Oct. 17: 114 vaccinated
Oct. 20: 70 vaccinated= 39P + 31JJ
Oct. 24: 213 vaccinated
Oct. 27: 50 vaccinated
Oct. 31: 52 vaccinated, Halloween, mandates required shots by Oct. 29
Nov. 3: 25 vaccinated
Nov. 4: 33 vaccinated; first van at Queens Village LIRR station.
Nov. 7: 127 vaccinated
Nov. 10: 28 vaccinated. This was scheduled to be adult van and first day of kids van. Kids van then canceled unexpectedly.
Nov. 11: Second LIRR. Canceled.
Nov. 14: 38 adults, 8 kids — Adult van and first day of kids van at Wayanda/SS Joachim and Anne
Nov. 17: 50 vaccinated
Nov. 18: Third LIRR. 33 total vaccines
Nov 21: 40 vaccinated
Sunday, Nov. 28: Adults only 33 total; 28 Pfizer and 5 JnJ
Dec. 5: 38. Pfizer 20+ J&J 10
Dec. 12: 64. Pfizer 17, J&J 14. Second shots 9, boosters 24
Dec. 15: 41 vaccinated but 60 tested. First-time Pfizer 9, J&J 5; second shots 7; Boosters 20.
Dec. 19: 63 vaccinated. First-timers Pfizer 55, J&J 8.
Dec. 22: Outside church, 79 vaccinated; inside the church with Sun River Health, 45 vaccinated. About 300 tested.
Dec. 26: 153 vaccinated. Pfizer 83, J&J 70. Around 150 people tested, around 40 positive.
Dec. 29: Van canceled with no notice