flatbush haitian community and vaccines
The Flatbush YMCA has been a vaccine site for over a month. The YMCA, along with HCC, are offering walk-in appointments for a limited time. Photo by Sam Bojarski

Two pop-up vaccine sites have opened in Flatbush, offering community members the chance to inoculate against the coronavirus without making an appointment. 

Vaccines will be offered at the Haitian-American Community Coalition (HCC) food pantry, 3931 Kings Highway, now through May 8. The Flatbush YMCA at 1401 Flatbush Ave. has also started offering the vaccine and will do so through May 9. The Flatbush YMCA site is open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., while HCC will offer vaccines from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 

HCC has partnered with New York City’s Test and Trace Corps to bring mobile COVID-19 testing to its food pantry each week. That made the nonprofit a good partner for the city’s mobile vaccination unit, said Spencer Casseus, HCC director of development and community affairs. 

“They were trying to target underserved communities, immigrant communities and non-English speaking communities,” Casseus said. “Since we served those populations with the food pantry, they thought this would be a good place to go to, with the [vaccination] unit.”

The nonprofit, Casseus said, is hoping to vaccinate at least 150 people before the weekend is over. Although people can walk up to the mobile unit, advance appointments can be made by calling HCC at 718-940-2200 ext. 139. 

Flatbush YMCA can be reached at 1-877-829-4692, according to the New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Finder. The website also offers the ability to schedule appointments at pharmacies, health centers and other sites, in Flatbush and citywide. 

Both the city and state announced last month that government-operated vaccine sites are open for walk-in appointments. 

In Flatlands zip code 11210, which contains both the HCC food pantry and the YMCA, 37% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose, city health department data shows. Just north in Flatbush and East Flatbush zip codes 11226 and 11203, the single-dose rates are 46% and 41% of residents, respectively. 

Citywide, 55% of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, per Health Department data. 

Bringing the coronavirus vaccine to trusted community sites has been a goal of Haitian community leaders since the start of the year. The clergy have played a role in building trust, and Evangelical Crusade Christian Church hosted a pop-up vaccination site in April

Nonprofit Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP) has also educated Haitian community members about the importance of taking the vaccine. Even as more and more New Yorkers become vaccinated, administering the vaccine in a trusted community setting is still an important goal, said HAUP Program Manager Johanne Jacques. The organization’s application to become a vaccine site has been unsuccessful thus far, she said. 

“This is something we did show a lot of interest in,” Jacques said about administering the vaccine. “At least having it at our site will make [people] a little more comfortable to take it.”  

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. 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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