The Town of Hempstead’s Vaxmobile made its way to the Rockville Centre Recreation Center on April 27 to provide a local vaccination option for residents. The mammoth truck, donned in the blue and purple of its operators, Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, stood in the parking lot loaded to administer the Pfizer vaccine.
Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray said that village buses have been able to go directly to seniors and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center to invite more residents to get their vaccines.
“The more people we get vaccinated and the faster we do it, we’ll get this disease out of here,” Murray said.
Ramon Paris, a resident who has done volunteer work with the Rockville Centre Hispanic Brotherhood, came with his son and wife to get their first dose of the vaccine. Each of them fought Covid-19 this past year. He was excited to begin the vaccination process and hopefully travel to Florida and Puerto Rico soon.
“We want to get back to normal,” Paris said. “We want to be able to take these masks off.”
The Vaxmobile is a joint venture between the Town of Hempstead and Mount Sinai South Nassau. The latter conceived the idea in November, citing its necessity as a local option for those who could not travel far for the Covid vaccine.
Joe Calderone, the senior vice president of communications at MSSN, credited town leadership through Supervisor Don Clavin and Councilman Anthony D’Esposito for helping to turn the idea into reality.
“They had the foresight and the leadership to take our proposal seriously and act on it,” Calderone said.
He added that in the month since the Vaxmobile started visiting different locations in Hempstead, it has vaccinated about 1,200 people. The vehicle has helped those who are not technologically savvy or do not have the time to make an appointment at one of the state sites because of their jobs find a quicker, but equally safe option.
“We had people from a deli in Island Park across the street,” Calderone said. “We had guys that didn’t even take their aprons off.”
The Vaxmobile started off as a testing center before transitioning to a mobile vaccine site when doses became available. It is the first such vehicle in the state and only the second in the nation, according to Clavin.
“This is because of the collaboration of having the funds that we utilized to help people and teaming up with the professionals who know how to use it,” Clavin said.
D’Esposito said that when he was contacted about the concept back in November, he was on the phone with Clavin within minutes. The two called the idea “a no-brainer.”
“To have that vision in November and December, when we weren’t even sure where vaccines were going to be, it was a great vision,” D’Esposito said. “And while others on the state and county levels were making this cash funding political, we made sure the money went where it needed to be.”
The town board voted in favor of using federal grant money awarded through the CARES Act to purchase the vehicle, which was an old police command center vehicle, from a North Carolina car dealer.
The Vaxmobile will be in the Five Towns, at 270 Lawrence Road in Lawrence, on May 6 and Freeport, at the recreation center at 130 East Merrick Road, on May 7.