On Monday, February 22, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a press conference at Medgar Evers College, where he announced that MEC would be the largest COVID-19 vaccination site in the State of New York. It will have the capacity to administer 3,000 vaccines per day and 21,000 vaccines per week.
This site has been made possible through the joint efforts of the federal and state governments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is spearheading the project, and along with the National Guard, it will manage the site and administer the vaccine.
Governor Cuomo stressed that “[t]he vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. The vaccine is here but there are still three obstacles.” The first is supply. Currently, the United States does not have enough of the vaccine to meet the immediate demand of Americans who are eligible to receive it. In New York State, over ten million people qualify to receive the vaccine, including first responders, nursing homes residents and staff, essential workers, and those 65 years and older. President Biden announced last week that by the end of July there will be enough vaccines for all Americans.
The second obstacle in the fight against COVID-19 is making the vaccine accessible in an equitable manner. Governor Cuomo emphasized that “COVID discriminates. COVID highlighted the injustices and racism in society,” which exist just below the surface. He underscored the statistic that “Blacks died at twice the rate of Whites. Hispanics died at one and one-half the rate of Whites.” While there was less testing within these communities, there were still higher infection rates. The higher death rates are directly correlated to the lack of quality healthcare within Black, Hispanic, and poor communities. This site is an attempt to “correct the injustices that we saw perpetrated by COVID,” and reduce the racial disparities among those who have access to the vaccine in New York State.
Residents in nearby communities will be given priority when making vaccination appointments during the first week. These neighborhoods include East New York, Brownsville, Sumner Houses, Broadway Triangle, Ocean Hill, Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights, Bushwick, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Canarsie, Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, East Midwood, Prospect Heights, and Clinton Hill. After the first week, appointments will be made available to the entire borough of Brooklyn.
To help local residents with transportation to the site, the MTA will launch extended bus service in the area. Beginning March 1, expanded routes will run from Pink Houses in Brooklyn to the vaccination site at 231 Crown Street in the Carroll Building, from 6:30am to 9:00pm. For details, visit www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-opening-state-fema-mass-vaccination-site-york-college-queens-and.
The third obstacle to widespread vaccine distribution is “hesitancy.” Governor Cuomo clarified that this hesitation translates to a lack of trust in the vaccine. He referenced historical precedents and legitimate reasons for minorities to distrust the system, such as the Tuskegee Experiment. He explained that there is no scientific basis for this hesitation as New York State has created an independent research panel comprised of top doctors and medical professionals who ultimately approved the vaccine. He called on elected officials and faith-based community leaders to encourage their constituents and congregations to get vaccinated.
Governor Cuomo was joined by New York State Assemblymember Latrice Walker. She acknowledged Assemblymember Diana Richardson and New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who helped bring this vaccination site to their districts. Assemblymember Walker reiterated the significance of advocating for this site, and added that “[i]t’s historic [and] it’s meaningful that we are here at Medgar Evers College. It represents the best of state and federal partnerships, and more importantly, the focus is on fairness, equity, and justice. The vaccine is essential, but it is the vaccinations that will save lives.”
Pastor Adolphus C. Lacey of the Bethany Baptist Church also joined Governor Cuomo. Pastor Lacey remarked that “[i]n the 138-year history of the Bethany Baptist Church, this past year will forever stand out for its challenges, losses, and lessons that we faced. COVID presented many trials, but faith among Brooklyn residents remained steadfast. Now we are stronger today thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, and because of our collective action, COVID is on the run.”
The Governor took a moment to thank essential workers, especially those who are working at the site. “We have such respect and owe debt of gratitude to all of you. The essential workers showed up so other people could stay home and be safe. There is no greater sign of humanity and love and courage by that action.”
The Governor closed by saying that “[w]e’re doing everything we can, along with the pastors and the elected officials to get out the word, but it’s up to you at the end of the day. We need people now to step forward and do this.”
Eligible Brooklyn residents can schedule vaccination appointments:
*Online at ny.gov/vaccine;
*By calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX.
Appointments must be made in advance. There are no walk-in options available.
For more information about how to make an appointment at the Medgar Evers College vaccination site, visit www.mec.cuny.edu/president-covid19-mediation-plan/mec-covid19-vaccination-site.
Read the press release and watch the full press conference here: www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-additional-efforts-expand-access-state-fema-vaccination-sites-brooklyn.
Additional coverage appeared in the following outlets:
The New York Times
NBC (Feb. 22)
NBC (Feb. 24)
NBC (Feb. 27)
Brooklyn Paper (Feb. 22)
Brooklyn Paper (Feb. 25)