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First-of-its-kind mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit comes to Uniondale

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March 31 marked a milestone in the Town of Hempstead's battle against Covid-19.

At a news conference, Town Supervisor Don Clavin announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re standing in front of the very first mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit in the entire State of New York, otherwise known as the Vaxmobile.”

Behind Clavin in the senior center parking lot was an oversized van with a medical team from Mount Sinai South Nassau ready to administer 100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to the center’s residents. The van was made possible by federal CARES funds.

Purchasing and equipping the van, Clavin said, required a five-month collaboration between the Town of Hempstead board and the MSSN administration and staff. Clavin particularly credited Councilman Anthony D’Esposito for responding when Richard Murphy, president and CEO of MSSN, reached out to the Town of Hempstead with the vision for the mobile unit.

D’Esposito represents the 4th Councilmatic District, where MSSN is located in Oceanside.

The mobile unit is vital, Clavin said, because widespread vaccination cannot be achieved without “getting into every community, and this mobile unit’s going to start that process."

Dr. Adhi Sharma, MSSN’s chief medical officer, said, “We want to thank the supervisor, his vision with Councilman D’Esposito and the town board, which allowed us to start planning way ahead of time for this. … We’re giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s one shot, and we’re getting it to those communities who are challenged”  —seniors and anyone without transport to a vaccination site.

Elizabeth Haggood and Willie Dent, both of Uniondale, received the first doses. “I didn’t even feel it,” said Haggood.

At one of the five vaccination stations set up in the senior center parking lot, nurses Valentina Griffiths and Luz Otero were two of the official vaccinators assigned to the mobile unit.

Otero said, “The patients who can’t come to us, we go to them,” including setting up drive-by vaccination stations where “we do everything while [the patients] are sitting in their car.” The vaccinators also might arrange a central station in the activity room of a senior housing unit, or walk through the unit to vaccinate bedridden residents.

Vaxmobile shots are by appointment only. To be placed on a list and notified of when the Vaxmobile will come to their area, people can call the Town of Hempstead Clerk’s Office.