Following the sudden pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new vaccination site at the Queens Center Mall delayed its opening two days, from Monday, April 12 to Wednesday, April 14. It’s vaccine of choice is now Moderna. The city-run site is now located where Modell’s used to stand outside the mall at 58-56 92nd St. in Elmhurst, after relocating from Newtown High School, where students are returning.
With only 16 sites in Queens, local elected officials continue to call for more sites in certain neighborhoods they say are lacking vaccine accessibility, especially in central Queens. Councilman Robert Holden, who has been pushing for more vaccine access in the Council’s 30th District, said the new site at the mall is a “big step in the right direction,” though he argues it’s not enough.
Angela Soto, a Community Health Promoter for the Department of Health, said the department needed to find a location that was still in Elmhurst and bordered Corona—and quickly, because in the second peak of the pandemic, Elmhurst was one of the hardest hit. “It suffered tremendous inequality and a lot of COVID-19 related illnesses,” Soto said.
The site at Queen Center was supposed to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but as concerns about side effects kept rising the city stopped administering the shot as of Tuesday, April 13, in accordance with CDC guidelines. However, the Pfizer vaccine was also ruled not to be an option at this site due to lack of space to keep it refrigerated.
The two-floor space that Modell’s once took up is now set up to provide 650 Moderna shots a day, with the continued help of the Affiliated Physicians team and the state’s Department of Health. It is expected to get new vaccines on a weekly basis, with the formula for how many based on the borough’s population. The site is open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m by appointment, but also via walk-ins, as a way to overcome the barriers some people face in trying to get an appointment electronically.
On Wednesday morning, the site appeared to have a steady yet relatively slow stream of people going in to get their shot. As of that evening, 44 percent of Elmhurst residents had received at least one vaccine, compared with 36 percent of Queens residents and 35 percent of the city’s total population, according to city data. “I’m glad we are here helping Queen neighbors get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Soto. “This community suffered a lot already.”
All New York adults are now eligible for the vaccine, and can search for appointments by calling 877-829-4692 or by visiting www.nyc.gov/VaccineFinder.