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Hempstead town, Mount Sinai's 'Vaxmobile' visits the Five Towns

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After spending weeks looking for a Covid-19 vaccination appointment, Dan Segarra took a short walk from his business, Warrior Scholar Martial Arts, on Lawrence Avenue in Lawrence, to the Five Towns Community Center for his first inoculation.

Segarra received one of 115 doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered at the community center on April 15, with the assistance of the Town of Hempstead and Mount Sinai South Nassau’s “Vaxmobile.”

The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was originally scheduled to be administered at the center two days earlier, but that was postponed after federal health officials called for a pause of the vaccine because of a potential issue with blood clots.

“I was trying to get a shot for weeks before I realized the community center was giving out shots,” Segarra said. “It was fantastic when I found that out, because it’s literally walking distance from my office. It was the easiest shot I ever got, and I barely felt it.”

The Vaxmobile made its debut in Uniondale on March 31. Mount Sinai South Nassau purchased and owns the mobile unit through the Town’s allocation of federal CARES act money. It is staffed with Mount Sinai South Nassau clinicians who speak English and Spanish, and who remain on hand in case any of those who get the vaccine have any adverse reactions. It has a private exam room, computerized work stations, medical testing, and refrigeration and secure storage areas.

Community Center Executive Director K. Brent Hill said that in addition to the April 15 appointments, the center also had 500 appointments available this Wednesday and Thursday, after the Herald went to press.

“With the assistance of the governor’s office and the county, we were able to secure 1,000 additional vaccine appointments here at the community center,” Hill said. “We’re happy to be able to partner with everyone to provide our community members with an opportunity to get vaccinated.”

The Vaxmobile also made an appearance at Young Israel of Woodmere synagogue on Tuesday.

Hill added that the center was an ideal spot for a vaccination site. “Everyone is very relieved and very thankful that they don’t have to travel a great distance,” he said. “This spot has been really ideal for people in this community to be able to walk here and get vaccinated.”

Sasha Young got her first shot on April 15, and lent her help by calling vaccine recipients to remind them of their appointments. In between, she was distributing food to roughly 200 people at Gammy’s Pantry, inside the community center.

“I want to thank the nurses from Mount Sinai South Nassau, the nurses here today and all involved for bringing us the Vaxmobile today,” Young said. “Being able to access testing and vaccines locally for our community members is truly life-saving. Many are unable to travel due to many reasons.”

Last October, the county and Mount Sinai South Nassau made Covid-19 testing available at the center.

Inwood resident Barbara Thompson, who got inoculated last week, said she appreciated all that the community center staff did to make the vaccines available. “From the start, they immediately let it be known that the Vaxmobile would be available locally,” Thompson said. “When the Johnson & Johnson shot was put on pause, Mr. Hill, Sasha and the entire team worked together to get Mount Sinai back to the center that same week.”

MSSN Nurse Practitioner Amber Vitale, who helped launch the Covid testing site in October, said she was glad to be back to help administer the vaccines. “In my position, you’re working in person with community members a lot of the time,” Vitale said. “It was great to see some familiar faces today.”

Segarra said he decided to get the vaccine in an effort to have life return to normal for him and his family. “Many are concerned because of how quickly it came out, but after reading information on it, I felt confident and safe in getting it,” he said. “We want our lives to get back to normal, and I think that not getting vaccinated will prolong that.”

A previous version of the article stated that "The town bought it with money from the federal CARES Act.” The correct statement is that "Mount Sinai South Nassau purchased and owns the mobile unit through the Town’s allocation of federal CARES act money."