MetroPlusHealth and NYC Health+Hospitals/Elmhurst joined forces to host the MetroTeen COVID-19 vaccination drive outside Elmhurst’s Community Medical Center on Saturday, June 19, encouraging teenagers to protect themselves against the COVID-19 virus as the summer break is just around the corner.
The event, which went from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featured a DJ and a photo station where teenagers could pose for a photo-op after receiving the vaccine. Several organizations, including Queensboro FC, handed out swag to visitors.
Helen Arteaga Landaverde, CEO of NYC Health+Hospitals/Elmhurst, pointed out that the pandemic is not over yet, and the day was dedicated to getting young people vaccinated and “to celebrate young life.”
Landaverde said that any teen over the age of 12 could get the Pfizer vaccine while accompanied by an adult, no appointment necessary. She also discussed how Elmhurst Hospital was the “epicenter of the epicenter” at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and that communities of color suffered the most losses.
“A year ago, we didn’t have this, and we’re still trying to figure out, ‘Is the vaccine coming?'” Landaverde said, “But now that we have the vaccine, we feel like there is the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dr. Talya Schwartz, president & CEO of MetroPlusHealth, who attended the event with her daughters Abby and Mia, said it was exciting that New York state had reached the 70 percent vaccination milestone and that MetroPlusHealth and NYC Health+Hospitals/Elmhurst were “eager to reach the same goal for teenagers so they can back to their lives.”
As a mother to a teenage daughter, Dr. Schwartz said she knows firsthand that the past year had been especially taxing for young people.
“We’re eager to get them back to being teens, back to socializing, without the fear of getting COVID-19,” she said.
Dr. Schwartz said she understood if parents were apprehensive about getting their teen vaccinated. She also looked at the data and safety protocols before her daughter was inoculated.
“I decided that the benefit significantly outweighs the concerns, and here I have a 15-year-old who is fully immunized,” Dr. Schwartz said.
She also said that it remains essential to wear a mask until the vaccine takes full effect — which is two weeks after the second vaccine — especially when indoors.
Dr. Schwartz said the emergence of the highly transmissible and more severe COVID-19 delta variant should encourage everyone to get vaccinated.
“The data is showing that, if you are fully vaccinated, you are also protected against the new variant. So, if you were hesitant, even more reason to get vaccinated,” she said.
Anthony Lema, 16, decided to get vaccinated because New York City will be returning to in-person learning in September. His message to young people is that getting the vaccine means more freedom.
“It benefits you in a good way,” Lema said. “I mean, sometimes you can walk around without a mask, and you’re now going to get into more places because you’re vaccinated.”
Brian Kang, a 15-year-old Stuyvesant High School student, also decided to receive the vaccine so that he can spend more time with his friends and be ready for the upcoming school year.
He knew that he had to get it at some point and decided “that now was the right time.”
He shared that more and more of his peers are getting vaccinated because of the incentive of receiving a scholarship.
Kang’s message to his peers who are still ambivalent about getting inoculated: “It’s easier than getting a flu shot.”