Got vaccines? You bet.
Vaccines came on Monday to New York City’s top Covid hot spot: South Ozone Park.
The new vaccination center at the Aqueduct Race Track, the sole state-run site announced in Queens, will bring much-needed relief to the neighborhood, which had the highest positivity rate of all New York City ZIP codes at 15.94 percent as of Friday.
Its two adjacent ZIP codes in Ozone Park and Richmond Hill had the second- and third-highest rates in the city on Friday.
When the distribution site opened, it filled a void left in the surging heart of the second wave left by the city’s vaccination site locations, which do not extend into South Queens west of the Van Wyck Expressway. Community leaders in South Queens, who had been watching the positivity rate increase at an alarming rate for months, have been critical of the mayor’s decision not to include Richmond Hill or South Ozone Park on his list of priority neighborhoods.
While a pre-existing drive-thru testing operation has continued in the Aqueduct parking lot, the vaccine center is isolated in the track’s mezzanine on the second floor. To receive a vaccine, residents simply walk up to the betting window and sign in for their appointment.
On the first day, New Yorkers trickled into the facility, which is largely staffed by the National Guard and state troopers, with limited wait times and ample parking.
The new site’s announcement last week, however, left some residents confused because it does not show up on the city’s Covid site map, leading them to wonder whether they were eligible. The conflicting messaging is the latest example of a gap of communication between the city and state’s vaccination efforts.
In a meeting of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association and Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol last Thursday night, President Sam Esposito said that the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Queens community liaison did not have the eligibility information on the site when he had asked him about it.
“The mayor and the governor have to get on the same page because when they argue we get hurt. And that’s not right,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) at the meeting, who added that his office had received inaccurate information about the vaccination efforts as well.
According to the state Department of Health, New Yorkers can visit the state vaccine website at am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov to determine eligibility and schedule appointments at the Aqueduct Race Track site.
This article was updated Monday after the site officially opened.