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Town’s vaccine van comes to Elmont

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Joy Cameron had been waiting outside the Elmont Senior Center in the cold and rain last Thursday morning, hoping for her shot at getting the Covid vaccine.

She had seen that the Town of Hempstead and Mount Sinai South Nassau’s new “Vaxmobile” would be coming to the senior center — where she lives — and figured it would be the best and easiest way for her to get the vaccine, because she would have trouble standing in line elsewhere with her weak knees. So she asked her primary care doctor whether it would be OK for her to get the vaccine with her heart conditions, and he approved it.

Unfortunately, though, she failed to make an appointment in time, and so she waited outside until Town of Hempstead Supervisor Donald X. Clavin saw that she was freezing and put her on the waitlist for a shot. Finally, at around 11 a.m., the 70-year-old Elmont woman sat down inside the senior center as Nurse Joana Anash-Yap administered the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“One way or another, they all get scheduled,” said Lisa Murphy, commissioner of the town’s Department of Senior Enrichment.

Town officials had debuted the Vaxmobile in Uniondale the day prior, and had administered nearly 200 vaccines in its first two days of operation, in addition to the more than 400 vaccines the medical staff had administered to seniors in Baldwin and Oceanside when Mount Sinai South Nassau officials tested out the van in the weeks prior to its debut.

It will now travel throughout the Town of Hempstead focusing on giving seniors the Johnson and Johnson one-dose vaccine six days a week “for as long as it takes,” Clavin said.

“You have to go literally street by street,” Clavin said, because not everyone has a computer to schedule an appointment or a car to get them there. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to open 100 percent.”

The town bought the van at the behest of Mount Sinai South Nassau officials, Clavin said, using funds from the federal CARES Act.

It is staffed with bilingual clinicians from the Mount Sinai South Nassau, who remain on-hand in case anyone starts showing adverse reactions to the vaccine. Additionally, it features a private exam room, computerized work stations, medical testing, refrigeration and secure storage areas.

The vaccines are typically administered in an outdoor or drive-through setting, and by providing elderly residents with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Joe Calderone, the senior vice president of corporate communications and development for the Oceanside-based hospital, said, they will not have to return to a site for a second dosage.

There had been some issues with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as company officials announced the day prior to the Elmont vaccination event that 15 million doses were recalled for failing a quality standards test. They hwould not affect the town’s operations, however, Calderone said, as they had not been were not shipped out to the market and did not need to be recalled, but if worse comes to worse, he said, the staff also has supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and would return to locations to administer second doses if the need arises.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible,” Calderone said.

To schedule an appointment on the Vaxmobile call (516) 812 - 3678 or email Vaxmobile@snch.org.