COVID-19 vaccinations administered to Queens Centers for Progress residents

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Photo courtesy of QCP

Residents and staff of the Queens Centers for Progress residential program were among the first people in the New York state intellectual disabilities community to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on the QCP’s Bellerose Campus on Jan. 7.

Queens Centers for Progress provides person-centered services and supports to children and adults who have developmental disabilities and many individuals in its residential program have been shut in since last March due to underlying health issues and fears of spreading the virus further inside the agency’s group homes.

The first round of Moderna vaccinations were delivered successfully, according to Dr. Frank Pantina, the pharmacy supervisor of Total Care Rx, which administered the inoculations.

“Beyond successful,” he said. “We were booked for 43 immunizations, but were able to vaccinate 67 individuals at the inaugural clinic.”

Queens Centers for Progress helped to spearhead the campaign to make access to the vaccine for people with intellectual disabilities a priority. Ed Weiss, QCP’s director of Adult Services, said QCP and Cerebral Palsy NY State advocated strongly for the residents and staff to be prioritized in the distribution. As a result, the state announced that all individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities living in certified residential settings, and the staff who support them, would be included in phase 1A of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

The first people to receive the vaccine were QCP’s Executive Director Terri Ross, direct support professional Nicole Majett and QCP resident Robert Dempsey.

“Far too many people have become sick and many have passed on from COVID-19,” Ross said. “Our QCP family has lost some very dear people. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your family and our community.”

Many programs switched to online delivery, and continue to be presented that way. Now, with the vaccinations becoming available, more individuals will be able to return to the in-person activities they have missed. Families will be able to visit their relatives soon and slowly, life for the more than 1,200 people QCP serves daily will return to something approaching normal.

Queens Centers for Progress, now in its 70th year, operates group homes in Jackson Heights, Jamaica Estates, New Hyde Park and there are five such homes on its Bellerose campus.