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Queens senators highlight challenges of distributing COVID-19 vaccinations

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky is joined by colleagues and healthcare providers to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Queens. (Courtesy of Stavisky's office)

The Senate’s Queens delegation on Friday, Jan. 22, held a virtual roundtable discussion with community stakeholders, city and state officials to examine the issues surrounding the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Senator Toby Stavisky, chair of the delegation, was joined by her colleagues Senators John Liu, Jessica Ramos, Joseph Addabbo, Leroy Comrie, James Sanders Jr., a representative from Michael Gianaris’ office, as well as representatives from the governor’s office, NYC Health + Hospitals, and various nonprofit organizations throughout the community. 

The senators roundtable on the COVID-19 vaccination distribution comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced that the state has run out of vaccines. And while another 250,000 doses are on the way this week, it’s not enough to keep pace. 

During the discussion, the senators shed light on the challenges their healthcare providers are experiencing in trying to obtain and administer the vaccinations. 

“We are the beginning of a very complex logistical process,” Stavisky said. “Right now, our hospitals and not-for-profit organizations are telling us they have more questions than answers as it relates to administering the COVID-19 vaccination.”

Stavisky, who represents the 16th Senate District that includes the neighborhoods of Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Murray Hill, Bayside and Woodside, said the signup process for COVID-19 vaccines has been confusing for many of her elderly, high-risk constituents. 

“We do not know how many doses of the vaccine our community is going to have access to, or when they’ll have that access. And we do not have enough safe sites open for people to get their shots,” Stavisky said. “Quite simply, we need to be answering three basic questions: how, when and where?”

Meanwhile, Liu said his constituents in northeast Queens have been trying desperately to secure a vaccine for themselves or for an elderly loved one, only to discover chaos, confusion and cancellation in the process.

Liu represents the 11th Senate District that encompasses the neighborhoods of Flushing, College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston-Little Neck and parts of Hollis and Bellerose. 

“This roundtable highlighted once again how communities all across Queens are underserved even as local hospitals and community service providers are ready, willing and able to help vaccinate residents. What’s clear is that not only does the federal government need to speed up the supply chain, but the city and state government have to quickly get their ducks in the same row.” 

As Queens was the epicenter of the virus, Sanders Jr. noted that his district in southeast Queens had the second-highest number of people dying from COVID-19. Sanders represents the 10th Senate District that includes Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Arverne and Far Rockaway. 

“The COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe and our best hope for combating this terrible disease,” Sanders Jr. said. “However, we need to make sure that it is distributed in a fair and equitable manner, especially when it comes to communities of color, which are far too often overlooked. We must be designated as a priority area for the vaccine. For our seniors to be waiting in the frigid cold for hours, only to be turned away, is unacceptable. The government must do better.”

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