Heeding repeated calls from Queens’ elected leaders over the last few weeks, Mayor de Blasio announced last Sunday that he would be expanding the list of priority vaccine neighborhoods into four more Queens areas.
It’s the first time the mayor has modified the targets of his vaccine command center since its unveiling in December. The group’s goal is to target neighborhoods with attention to racial demographics that were hardest hit by the pandemic. In December, de Blasio described its function as coordinating the vaccine response between public and private providers including urgent care clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and community vaccination sites.
“We’ve looked at the neighborhoods with the greatest danger. And I would like to say clearly that [this] group of 33 neighborhoods are where the most vulnerable people are,” de Blasio said in his press event on Sunday.
The new Queens neighborhoods include Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, Kew Gardens and Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park and Queens Village.
The move comes after Borough President Donovan Richards and South Queens electeds demanded that the mayor address Covid spread in the area, where the positivity rate has been increasing at an alarming rate for months.
As of Monday, 11419, the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park ZIP code was the second highest in the city. The positivity rates of three other adjacent ZIP codes covering Ozone Park, Woodhaven and South Ozone Park were all in the top 10 positivity rates in the city — a trend that has been consistent since November.
In addition to amending the priority neighborhoods, the Mayor’s Office released data breaking down the racial disbursement of vaccines to date, which shows the rate of vaccination for black and Latino residents citywide lags far behind.
Only 15 percent of New York City residents vaccinated are Latino, despite making up 29 percent of the city according to the American Community Survey. Only 11 percent of those vaccinated are black, as opposed to making up 24 percent of the city population. The disparity has persisted despite the fact that over 60 percent of vaccination sites are within the priority neighborhoods’ targeted communities, according to Sideya Sherman of the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity.
The mayor also unveiled a “family plan” for making vaccine appointments.
“If someone is an essential worker that lives in one of the communities of greatest need, that they can get the opportunity to bring their whole family with them, everyone who was eligible, to get vaccinated,” he said.
In addition, the city is planning to amend the scheduling process by translating its vaccine application form into a greater number of languages, which so far has been limited to English and Spanish. The translation will include Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Haitian Creole, French, Korean, Polish, Russian and simplified Chinese.
To find vaccine site locations, go online to vaccinefinder.nyc.gov/locations.