Commonpoint Queens helps local seniors navigate COVID-19 vaccine process

Danielle Ellman, Commonpoint Queens CEO. (Photo courtesy of Commonpoint Queens)

Following the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a community center in Little Neck has been working to ensure local seniors have access to all the resources needed to educate them and make appointments.

Commonpoint Queens recognized the ongoing vaccine distribution issue across the city, especially for residents of northeast Queens, who often had to travel outside of their communities prior to Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement regarding temporary vaccination sites.

Over the past month, the nonprofit monitored city and state websites, called Queens-based medical centers and reached out to lawmakers and community partners to find a solution for the 3,000 older adults they serve.

“We have held vaccine education workshops. We sit on the phone together and walk them through the appointment process. We schedule car service transportation for appointments. We have even met some of them at the location to ensure all goes smoothly,” said Danielle Ellman, CEO of Commonpoint Queens.

Ellman added that last week alone, the nonprofit helped 200 older adults to navigate the appointment process and scheduled over 150 appointments for first doses.

“One of the clients we helped is 107 years old and thanked us profusely, telling us that he would not have been able to access the vaccine without us,” she said.

On Feb. 8, elected officials and advocates rallied at Commonpoint to demand vaccine sites for northeast Queens, just days before Cuomo announced a pop-up vaccination site at Korean Community Services (KCS) in Bayside. Mayor de Blasio also announced the opening of Citi Field as a mass vaccination site for Queens residents, although its opening day brought much confusion to residents seeking their first doses.

Despite these advances, there are still no permanent vaccine sites for northeast Queens seniors, and those at Monday’s rally addressed the desperate need for the city and state to open accessible locations.

“We understand the vaccine shortage has created logistical hurdles, but we cannot leave any communities behind when supply is eventually replenished and distributed,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic at the rally. “The expectation that seniors must travel long distances for the chance of immunization is unacceptable.”

Danielle Hersch, Commonpoint Queens’ chief strategy officer said that the nonprofit will continue to be there for the senior community and their “evolving needs,” including scheduling vaccination appointments and other essential services.

“We have seniors who are waiting on the phone for an hour and getting disconnected, competing for limited slots amongst each other, and are struggling to navigate a complicated system. We just want to help them see their family members and resume their pre-pandemic lives, and they’re so appreciative of us for helping them,” Hersch said.

Older adults in need of help navigating the vaccine scheduling process can visit www.commonpointqueens.org/vaccine or call 718-225-6750 extension 238.