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Vaxmobile pays visit to Baldwin

Town of Hempstead, Mount Sinai South Nassau offering Covid-19 shots

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The Vaxmobile, the first mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit in the state, run by the Town of Hempstead and Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, stopped by the Baldwin Senior Center on April 21 to inoculate local residents.

Officials announced the partnership between the town and MSSN earlier this year, saying the initiative aimed to bring vaccines to residents throughout Hempstead, especially to the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

The Town Board provided about $695,000 of federal CARES Act funding to the hospital to establish the unit.

“I feel good,” said Ynes Castillo, a Freeport resident who had just received her first Pfizer-BioNTech shot and was waiting the required 15 minutes before she could leave, to be monitored for any immediate reaction.

Freeport resident Norma DeJesus also received her first Pfizer shot. She said she was nervous because she had heard both positives and negatives about the vaccine.

She has underlying medical conditions, she said, sitting next to family members, “so we have to worry about that. But I said we have to do what we have to do to be protected, and that’s why we’re here. We just pray to God that it’ll go through well.”

James Goodheart, of Bellmore, came to the Baldwin Senior Center with Linda Kennedy, also of Bellmore, to receive his shot. He said that before he made his appointment with the Vaxmobile, scheduling one was hard. He would have had to have waited until the end of next month if he continued to try to schedule an appointment at the mass vaccination site at Jones Beach State Park.

Kennedy said she had received an email from the town about the mobile unit and booked an appointment soon after.

“It’s very pleasant here,” Goodheart said of the pop-up site at the senior center.

Amber Vitale, a Mount Sinai South Nassau nurse practitioner who was helping run the site, said she and her team have been setting up and taking down the tables and medical equipment for the Vaxmobile for a little over a month now.

Typically, the unit runs the vaccination site as a drive-through, but since it was raining, residents and medical staff were set up inside a large room in the senior center.

Vitale, of Lynbrook, said she loves coming to senior centers because she and her team are able to reach many residents who live in the surrounding area.

“The whole message of what we’re doing is that we’re trying, as an organization, to bring the vaccine to people instead of people having to go to the vaccine,” she said. “We’re making it as easy as possible for people who have mobility issues, transportation issues.”

Accessibility is the mission, she noted.

If there are no-shows or canceled appointments, the leftover vaccines can be administered during house calls.

When Vitale and her team were administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-and-done shot, she said they went into people’s homes and vaccinated those with mobility issues, those with severe health issues and the elderly. She recalled vaccinating 100-year-olds, people who were on ventilators and people who were paralyzed.

“These people were the ones who were slipping through the cracks in getting the vaccine,” she said, “so being able to take those extra doses and take them to someone’s home when they probably wouldn’t even have the opportunity to get it was something that was really meaningful to be able to do that.”

To make an appointment with the Vaxmobile or check where it will be stopping, call (516) 812-3678 or email vaxmobile@snch.org.

“We do our best,” Vitale said. “We’re not a super huge team, but for such a small team, we impact a lot. We’re very, very grateful to be able to go out into the community, go out into the homes and help people.”

To check on vaccination efforts throughout the county, visit www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine.