vaccine sites haitian community
New Yorkers check in to their vaccine appointments, at the Flatbush YMCA. Photo by Sam Bojarski

From education, to spiritual comfort in a time of loss, faith institutions have helped Haitian-Americans  weather the unanticipated challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Evangelical Crusade Christian Church, one of the largest Haitian-led churches in Brooklyn, is poised to offer the vaccine in partnership with New York State. 

“The community’s going to a place they’re comfortable with, a place that they know,” said Rev. Samuel Nicolas, lead pastor at Evangelical Crusade. “They will see familiar faces and know the Haitian community is being served. What it does for the church is it continues to develop herd immunity for us.” 

Open to all eligible New Yorkers, a pop-up vaccination site at Evangelical Crusade will operate from April 8-9, 9 a.m.-5 p.m, the governor’s office announced in a press release. The church is one of 18 pop-up vaccine sites the state has announced so far this month. With federal supply set to increase for New York City, vaccine sites continue to open citywide, including in the Flatbush area. 

Vaccinations at Evangelical Crusade will take place inside the church, at 557 E. 31st St., in East Flatbush. New York residents 16 years of age or older can contact 1-833-766-6769 or visit somosvaccinations.com, to make an appointment. 

evangelical crusade haitian church
Evangelical Crusade Christian Church, in East Flatbush, is joining a New York State initiative to bring pop-up vaccine sites into trusted community locations. Photo by Sam Bojarski

Medical personnel from SOMOS, a network of health care providers that has partnered with New York State, will administer the shots. Volunteers from the church will manage the site and check people into their appointments. Evangelical Crusade stands ready to administer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to 800 community members in two days, Nicolas said. 

Sites open, as Flatbush lags behind in vaccination

Since December, Nicolas has inquired with government authorities about the possibility of administering coronavirus vaccines at his 2,000-member East Flatbush church. Nicolas said he was in communication with District 45 Council Member Farah Louis, who helped the church become a vaccination site. 

Louis has not responded to a phone call to her office, requesting comment. 

“My office has worked tirelessly to ensure there was equitable and effective access to the vaccine, prioritizing our district,” Louis said, in an April 6 Facebook post, about the Evangelical Crusade vaccination site. 

Just over a week ago, another partnership between the city and YMCA of Greater New York resulted in a vaccine site opening at the Flatbush YMCA. In zip code 11210, which contains Evangelical Crusade and the Flatbush YMCA, New York City Health Department data suggests that 25% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 37% citywide. 

Neighboring zip codes 11203 and 11226 in Flatbush had seen 27% and 31% of residents vaccinated, respectively, as of April 6. 

More than a dozen pharmacies and health centers in Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods offer the vaccine, per the city’s COVID-19 Vaccine Finder website. One of these sites, the Flatbush YMCA, has appointments seven days a week, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., the city announced in a press release about its YMCA partnership. 

“As one of the communities hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, our recovery has been among the slowest because of the racial disparities and limited resources,” Louis said in a press release. “The designation of the Flatbush YMCA as a COVID-19 vaccination site will help ease anxiety and fear among local families who were left behind by protecting the most vulnerable populations.”

New Yorkers continue to report difficulties scheduling vaccine appointments, as eligibility criteria expands and demand increases. But Nicolas said he is confident the vaccine could bring life closer to pre-pandemic times, even if the process of achieving herd immunity takes months. 

“It helps us to get back to family gatherings, the way that we used to do things,” Nicolas said, of the vaccine. “We’re just excited that we’re able to serve the community and that we’ll get back to some semblance of normalcy.” 

To schedule a vaccine appointment, visit New York City’s COVID-19 Vaccine Finder website

Click here to schedule an appointment at a state-run vaccination site. 

Epicenter NYC volunteers are also available to help schedule appointments. Fill out this form or email Epicenter NYC at hello@epicenter-nyc.com

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 Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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