City opens vaccine center at Queens Center Mall amid officials’ calls for more local sites

NYC: COVID-19 vaccination site opens at Queens Center Mall
A COVID-19 vaccination site opened at Queens Center Mall on April 12. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

A new vaccine site opened at the Queens Center Mall on Monday, April 12, as local elected officials continue call for more sites in certain neighborhoods they say are lacking vaccine accessibility in central Queens.

The city-run site is located at the former Modell’s location at 58-56 92nd St. in Elmhurst, according to the city’s vaccine finder site. It will be open to the general public Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The site was originally set to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the city has stopped administering the shot as of Tuesday, April 13, in accordance to CDC and federal guidelines. A city spokesperson said they are working to reschedule appointments to offer Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to the best of their ability instead.

All New York adults are now eligible for the vaccine, and can search for appointments by calling 877-829-4692 or by visiting www.nyc.gov/VaccineFinder.

On Monday afternoon, the site appeared to have a steady yet relatively slow stream of people waiting to get their vaccine.

A COVID-19 vaccination site opened at Queens Center Mall on April 12. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
A COVID-19 vaccination site opened at Queens Center Mall on April 12. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The new site comes as Congresswoman Grace Meng, along with multiple local lawmakers, wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio urging them to establish a mass vaccination site that would specifically serve Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, and parts of Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

“We have heard from many local stakeholders regarding vaccine access issues for communities west of Woodhaven Boulevard,” the letter read. “Due to the limited number of vaccination sites in this area, we are urging your office to establish a mass vaccination site in this underrepresented region of Queens County.”

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Assembly members Catherine Nolan, Jenifer Rajkumar and Brian Barnwell, and Councilman Robert Holden all signed on to the letter.

In response to the lawmaker’s calls, Avery Cohen, a spokesperson at the mayor’s office, said the city is working to get shots in arms.

“With more sites opening every day, we’re doing all we can to vaccinate our Queens neighbors as quickly as possible,” Cohen said. “From pop-up sites to vaccinations for homebound New Yorkers, we will not stop until there is a shot in the arm of every person across our city.”

As of Monday, 34 percent of Queens residents have received at least one vaccine compared to 33 percent of city’s total population, according to city data. City officials pointed to Middle Village’s 34 percent vaccination rate for at least one dose, which is above the citywide average, and noted there are upwards of 12 sites in the area.

Maspeth, Glendale, parts of Ridgewood and Woodhaven also currently have vaccination rates above the citywide average, according to the latest city data. However, those neighborhoods’ rates are much lower when compared to some parts of northeastern and northwestern Queens, where elected officials have fought to get more vaccine sites.

Meng, who represents Congressional District 6, said she was pleased to learn about the new site at Queens Center Mall, thanking the mayor and the city for setting it up. But she said there is still a need for more locations.

“Other communities in my congressional district still need a vaccination location as well, and, I, along with several of my government colleagues, are continuing to call for a site in the western portion of my district, and we will continue to push for that to happen and work with the city and state on this effort,” Meng said. “As I have said, everybody deserves easy access to the vaccine, and that includes all of my constituents.”

Holden, who has been pushing for more vaccine access in the Council’s 30th District, said the new site at the mall is a “big step in the right direction,” but it’s not enough.

“It should not have taken this long or required every local elected official in the area to ask for it. We have a large population of seniors and immigrants, combined with a lack of public transportation. We need more sites,” Holden said. “It’s still too difficult for some of our constituents in the southern part of the district. City Hall must not short change our neighborhoods.”

This story was updated on April 13 at 4 p.m.