One of New York State's pop-up COVID vaccination sites provided first doses to qualified individuals inside a downtown Buffalo church for several hours Monday. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited St. John Baptist Church on Goodell Street, where she renewed the state's concern for a lack of supply to meet the demand.
An estimated 250 people were identified by church leaders as qualified candidates and were contacted to advise them of Monday's pop-up clinic. Dr. Levonne Ansari, executive director of the Community Health Center of Buffalo, was among those on hand to oversee the distribution.
“One of the things that we do, to make sure we secure our community, is that we have the clinical expertise here for them to feel comfortable," she said. "We have physicians, we have pharmacists, we have nurses, so when they come to get the shot, they're comfortable with the level of health care that's here, that's going to be provided for them.”
Pastor Michael Chapman was among the recipients. He explained that if eligible candidates see him receiving the shot, they'll understand his position is in the best interest of their community.
Dr. Ansari explained that their work continues to include "myth busting" about the drug. The work also includes ensuring there's equity in how the vaccine is distributed.
“As you can see with this particular site, here is just one of the first of many. This is a model that we're going to try to emulate in other areas of distressed communities,"said Reverend Mark Blue, who heads the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP and also chairs a task force responsible for helping ensure health equity. "We have a lot of people who still have barriers in travel, and also barriers in using technology to get on to the website to make their appointments.”
Hochul said the stalled distribution, which has led to the cancellation of several clinics, is not a lack or places and personnel but a lack of adequate supply of vaccine. She recalled the struggle to acquire adequate amounts of COVID test kits and protective equipment early in the pandemic, and suggested the state is undergoing a similar situation with acquiring more vaccines.
She estimated that, unless more supply becomes available, the state was at a pace where the general public could finally have its turn receiving shots in August. In the meantime, she also spoke of the state's commitment to ensuring equity with distribution of the doses they have.
“We're also very cognizant of the fact that this virus has not been fair in who it attacks. It has taken more lives of people of color. Almost double the number of Blacks and Browns have died, compared to those of the White population,” Hochul said. “It is critical that we get into these communities directly, in a place where it's accessible and easy for them to get to.”