By Sam Bojarski | Sam@haitiantimes.com

One hundred senior citizens and essential workers received coronavirus vaccines at a local pharmacy owned by Brooklyn residents Serge and Edwige Dorime. The pop-up vaccination event was the result of a partnership between the Five Star Pharmacy in Crown Heights and local mutual aid groups that worked directly with the establishment to schedule appointments.

By bypassing the online appointment scheduling tools, residents who lack digital access or savvy have a better chance of being vaccinated. 

“We do realize how difficult it is for certain people to get an appointment in the system,” said Edwige Dorime, 63. “This is the easiest way, open the pharmacy [and] let the people come in just so they can get vaccinated.”

Five Star Pharmacy, at 1200 Fulton St., is typically open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. during weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays. 

The week prior, the pharmacy vaccinated more than 50 people. However, it opened exclusively for vaccine appointments on Sunday, March 21, doubling the number of people served.

Throughout the day, the pharmacy administered two different vaccines: the first dose of the two-part Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to staff. In New York, seniors ages 60 and up, people with qualifying comorbidities and essential workers are now eligible for the vaccine. 

A grassroots partnership

Edwige and her husband Serge have been in business together for 30 years, including 27 years at their current location. Their son Richard Dorime, 30, now helps operate the business as well.

“Before [Crown Heights] we were in Long Island for three years,” said Serge, 67, who first set up shop with his wife in Uniondale, New York. “For business reasons we moved here, things were not working the way we expected it to.” 

The Sunday pop-up vaccination event started with a cold call to the pharmacy from Ani Simon-Kennedy, who helped start the Clinton Hill-Fort Greene Mutual Aid volunteer-run group in March 2020. For the past year, the group has distributed food to senior citizens and other neighborhood residents, connecting with them through a telephone hotline and outreach to senior housing sites. 

“As they were asking about food, people also started asking about vaccine appointments,” Simon-Kennedy said. “These are people who were really falling through the cracks with [scheduling] appointments.” 

The March 17 call from Simon-Kennedy to Five Star came at the right time, a day before the pharmacy was scheduled to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines. Once the March 21 date for the pop-up was set, Simon-Kennedy also said, other mutual aid groups — such as Bed Stuy Strong and Epicenter NYC, which have scheduled hundreds of vaccine appointments for New York City residents so far — were invited to schedule residents for appointments at Five Star.

The Clinton Hill-Fort Greene mutual aid group seeks to partner with additional pharmacies to schedule appointments, as vaccine supply increases. 

The grassroots partnership will likely continue as more New Yorkers become eligible for a vaccine, Edwige Dorime said, although a date for the next vaccination clinic is yet to be determined. 

“As long as the community has the need we will be there to help,” said Edwige. “That’s what we do.” 

Five Star Pharmacy can be reached at 718-398-9000. 

Those who need help scheduling an appointment can fill out this form or email Epicenter NYC at hello@epicenter-nyc.com

To request an appointment through Bed Stuy Strong, text VACCINE to 917-810-2337 with the full name and number of the eligible neighbor or family member to receive a call back.

Sam Bojarski

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and...

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