Nassau County and Freeport leaders teamed up with Northwell Health to host a three-day pop-up vaccination site at the Zion Cathedral Church from March 30 to April 2.
About 800 local residents received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine during the pop-up event.
County Executive Laura Curran said the partnership between elected officials, leaders of the ministry at Zion Cathedral and Northwell Health serves those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, which saw a greater rate of infection in communities of color.
“These pop-ups ensure access to the vaccines in all our communities and also builds confidence in the vaccines so others in the community will get vaccinated,” Curran said.
“This pandemic has exposed many of the disparities that have existed in our communities for years,” added Bishop Frank A. White, of the Zion Cathedral Church, “and it’s important for the church to work with the county and Northwell to address these healthcare disparities that have had a devastating impact in the Latino and African-American communities.”
The vaccinations were reserved for Freeport, Roosevelt, Hempstead and Uniondale residents. Northwell Health held a previous pop-up in Roosevelt in January.
These vaccination events are held as a part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate to ensure equal distribution of the vaccine in the state, Northwell officials explained. In January, Northwell joined the county’s Health Equity Task force to roll out the vaccine in communities with the highest infection rates.
Freeport continues to be the third-hardest hit community by Covid-19, with more than 5,500 positive cases reported as of this week, according to the county Department of Health.
National studies have shown that majority-minority communities like Freeport have had higher rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths than predominantly white communities since the pandemic began last March, and in November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that African-Americans were 1.4 times more likely to contract Covid-19 than whites, 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized for the virus and 2.8 percent more likely to die from it.
Residents of these communities often work in essential businesses and are at higher risk of exposure. In Freeport, more than 4,200 residents worked in health care support services in 2018, roughly 2,300 worked in sales and more than 2,200 worked in education services, according to census data.
To make sure the most vulnerable of these residents were served first, the county reached out to the Zion Cathedral Church and local elected officials to help book the appointments.
Given the history of the U.S. Government’s abuses of Black residents through experimental vaccinations, White said he had expected hesitation from residents and fellow members of the ministry when he reached out to them about the vaccines. Instead, he learned many of them had already received it and would gladly help to spread the word about it to others.
“We’re here to fight misinformation and build hope over the vaccine,” White said.
Legislator Steven Rhoads, who oversees parts of Freeport, said he also experienced residents’ worries over the vaccine while serving as director of the Youth Ministry Program at St. Pius X Parish, in Plainview.
“Never before in the course of human history have we had scientists working on the same thing at the same time when it came to making these vaccines,” Rhoads said. “They are 95 percent effective... and the best course of action to get back our lives back to where we want them is to get that shot in our arms.”
Fellow Legislator Debra Mulé, of Freeport, worked with the Freeport-Roosevelt branch of the NAACP to book appointments. Together, they worked to reach vulnerable populations in the homeless and undocumented communities. NAACP Branch President Douglas Meyer said that because these groups are either wary of the government or lack access to phones and computers, the county needs to go above and beyond to reach them.
“This pandemic won’t end unless we can vaccinate these groups,” Meyer said.
Upon seeing residents come in and out of the church to receive the vaccine, White expressed some relief over what has been a tumultuous year. Since the pandemic began, White said he’s had to console countless members of his congregation over fear and loss due to Covid-19.
“More than 500,000 people died because of this pandemic,” White said. “These were breathing human beings. They were fathers, mothers, grandparents, teachers, preachers, politicians, healthcare workers and so much more. We have to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and this pop-up is one more step.”
Curran said that by the end of the week, about 36 percent of county residents will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. County officials said more supplies of the vaccines would arrive in the coming weeks.
Those 18 and older will be able to sign up for the vaccine on April 6. County officials said immigration or health insurance status would not matter to receive the vaccine.
To check your eligibility or sign up for the vaccine, visit https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/5126/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information.