Northeast Queens Still Coronavirus Vaccine Desert, Lawmakers Say

Maya Kaufman
·2 min read

BAYSIDE, QUEENS — Local lawmakers are doubling down on calls for the city to open permanent coronavirus vaccination sites in Northeast Queens to cater to the area's large senior population.

At a news conference Monday outside the Commonpoint Queens Sam Field Center in Little Neck, state and city politicians accused Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration of forgetting about Northeast Queens in its vaccination efforts.

There are no vaccination sites east of Union Street in Flushing or north of 82nd Road in Jamaica, even though Northeast Queens is home to a higher-than-average proportion of senior residents eligible to get vaccinated.

That means seniors in Eastern Queens have been traveling as far as the Javits Center, on the western edge of Manhattan, to get their shots.

In Queens Community Board 11's district, which includes much of Northeast Queens, a fifth of residents are 65 or up — all of whom now qualify to get vaccinated in New York. In the neighboring district of Queens Community Board 7, seniors make up 19 percent of the population, according to city data.

The citywide average is 14 percent.

"Despite having one of the largest senior populations in the city, Northeast Queens still does not have a single vaccination site. That is unacceptable," City Council Member Paul Vallone said in a statement. "Our seniors should not have to travel 10, 20, 30 or more miles during a health pandemic to access a lifesaving vaccine."

In response to the complaints, a City Hall spokesperson pointed to the 24-hour vaccination site opening this week at Citi Field.

That isn't a solution, given the lack of transit options in Northeast Queens, according to state Assembly Member Nily Rozic.

"While we welcome the long awaited site at Citi Field, it still poses travel challenges for older adults especially in the transit desert that is NE Queens — even more so considering that we are currently without 24/7 transit access," a spokesperson for Rozic wrote in an emailed statement to Patch.

Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for the governor's office, told Patch that the state plans to open pop-up vaccine sites in Northeast Queens in the coming weeks, "as part of our efforts to ensure equitable vaccine access."

But Northeast Queens officials said they want to see a long-term solution.

"It’s bad enough that there are no vaccination sites in northeast Queens, but it is simply mind-boggling that there doesn’t seem to be any concrete plans yet to set up a long-term vaccination site in our community," state Sen. John Liu said. "We have received numerous complaints from community members, and my colleagues and I have reached out to state and city officials multiple times, to no avail. Leaving out northeast Queens from comprehensive vaccination plans is irresponsible and short sighted."

This article originally appeared on the Bayside-Douglaston Patch