We launched our partnership to increase vaccine distribution in an underserved New York City neighborhood in July 2021, working with two New York-based news organizations,  Epicenter-NYC, a Queens hyperlocal, and TBN24, serving the Bangladeshi emigre community.

This work in Queens Village, a part of the New York City borough of Queens that borders on Long Island and occupies zip code 11429, is part of a grant called the Vaccine Equity Partner Engagement, with the Fund for Public Health of New York City, using Centers for Disease Control money, in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of New York City.

The work began with encouraging vaccine delivery to underserved neighborhoods in the New York City Taskforce for Racial Inclusion and Equity neighborhoods. The goal has changed with the circumstances. Initially vaccine persuasion and delivery were the goals; then testing became one of the deliverables; then delivering information about broader topics like primary care, education, financial aid, food insecurity and legal consultations became part of the program.

Our work first consisted of establishing a relationship with New York Health + Hospitals, the public hospital group in the city, which scheduled a mobile van to come to the neighborhood to deliver vaccines and testing in September 2021. The van has come almost every Wednesday and Sunday to 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 first grant was issued in July 2021; it was renewed in January 2022, and renewed again in June 2022. Our staff members on the ground support the team of health care providers in the van, by assisting with directing traffic and giving out information. Our team also distributes home test kits, masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and so on to people coming to get tested and vaccinated (when applicable) as well as to the parishioners at the church and other members of the community.

Few vaccine distribution sites

We learned pretty quickly that this zip code, 11429, had two vaccine delivery sites, both of them chain drug stores (Rite-Aid and Walgreens). Neither accepts walk-ins ever or frequently, so you need to book the appointment online. (All three of our organizations have done extensive reporting on how this is a deterrent.) In September of 2022, we found that only the Rite-Aid remained as a distribution site in zip 11429.

We also looked for transit hubs, grocery stores and other gathering spots where vaccine delivery would be easy in the early going. One trait undervaccinated communities share is that they are less connected and boast fewer of these quality-of-life features of other neighborhoods.

There are no city vaccine sites in this neighborhood, so the city’s $100 incentive was not really in play. In the early days of our outreach efforts, we made a flyer to help publicize the $100 incentive. When we gave it to people in Queens village, we had to tell them there were no nearby sites. (To get the incentive, you can look up the city sites on the vaccinefinder.nyc.gov site.)

In January, when tempers flared over vaccine-seeking and test-seeking New Yorkers in the middle of the Omicron surge, we wrote about the problems and the solutions to testing and vaccine shortages.

By the time June 2022 rolled around, the vaccine and testing van we had scheduled was no longer offering vaccines, only testing. (The reason was that federal funding for vaccines had ended with Congress’s failure to pass a bill with more money.)

While we had asked for a “Test + Treat” function — people who test positive would be able to get access to Paxlovid or other treatments — that did not happen until early October, when the testing van showed up on a Sunday with a “Test and Treat” sign.

Other vaccine distribution coverage

Here’s some of our other coverage:

“Covid testing scarce: It’s hard to get tested now, at least in NYC,” Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, Aug. 2, 2022

“Paying for Covid tests gets complicated; sites close down,” Jeanne Pinder, July 5, 2022

“Covid vaccines recommended for kids under 5; questions remain,” Jeanne Pinder, June 16, 2022

“The Covid vaccine: Rates drop at our van, despite the new variant of Covid,” Jeanne Pinder, April 28, 2022

“Our Queens Village van: Dozens more Covid vaccines on a balmy day,” Jeanne Pinder, Feb. 24, 2022

“Coronavirus (Covid-19) and testing: Our vaccine van takes a primary role as a test provider,” Jeanne Pinder, Dec. 31, 2021

“Kids turned away over fears of wasted vaccine,” Bifen Xu, Jeanne Pinder and S. Mitra Kalita, Nov. 23, 2021

“Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the vaccine: Johnson & Johnson surges in New York, while Moderna’s still hard to find,” Jeanne Pinder, Oct. 24, 2021

“Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the vaccine: People want to get vaccinated. Sometimes it’s too hard. What are some solutions?” Jeanne Pinder, Sree Bhagavan, Bifen Xu, Oct. 12, 2021

“Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the vaccine: What’s up with vaccine hesitancy? Well, maybe part of it is just logistics,” Jeanne Pinder, Sree Bhagavan, Bifen Xu and S. Mitra Kalita, Sept. 24, 2021

Epicenter-NYC” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>”Why we cannot give up on the unvaccinated,” Sept. 23, 2021

“Why the vaccine hesitant are getting vaccinated,” Epicenter-NYC, Aug. 17, 2021


This continues our national strategy of bringing transparency to health care not only on our home site, but also in partnership with other news organizations, including CBS News; WVUE Fox 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; KQED public radio in San Francisco; KPCC public radio in Los Angeles; WLRN public radio in Miami; WUSF public radio in Tampa-St. Petersburg; their Florida partnership, Health News Florida; and MedPage Today, a provider of news, opinion and medical education to 670,000 providers, among others. Read about our national partnerships here.

We have won a ton of prizes, including the national public service gold medal with CBS from the Society of Professional Journalists – Sigma Delta Chi. This post from NiemanLab describes our partnership in New Orleans with WVUE FOX 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune.

Our work has been funded by a few angel investors and also by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation (via the International Women’s Media Foundation), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, the McCormick Foundation (via J-Lab at American University); the Lenfest Foundation; the New York State Health Foundation; and others.