By Ben Lachapelle
A pop-up Covid-19 vaccination van, run by the Town of Hempstead and staffed by Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, recently swung by Oceanside High School to inoculate students, staffers and community members. It was one in a series of such visits by the van to sites throughout the town.
The vaccination van, known as the “Vaxmobile,” was funded with roughly $695,000 of the $133 million that the largest township in America received from the federal CARES Act to fight the pandemic. The goal is to provide convenient vaccination locations and limit transportation barriers for Hempstead residents who want the vaccine.
“The Town of Hempstead was the first municipality in New York State to deploy a mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit — something that we believe helped to reduce the local infection rate and keep residents safe. We are proud to continue offering this essential service to the community,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said.
The Vaxmobile continues vaccinating members of the community at popular Hempstead locations since its first stop at the Uniondale-Hempstead Senior Center in March.
“We have been asked by the governor and State Department of Health to make the vaccine available as a convenience to our community,” School Board Trustee Sandie Schoell said.
On Oct. 4, the Vaxmobile inoculated community members outside Oceanside High School from 3 to 6 p.m. Oceanside School District and Mount Sinai South Nassau have a “close relationship,” according to Oceanside Schools Superintendent Phyllis Harrington.
At the Sept. 22 Oceanside Board of Education meeting, one parent expressed concern that children could be pushed to take the vaccine because of the Vaxmobile.
“We are advertising it. One of the mandates from the department of health requires us to let people know where they can be vaccinated,” Harrington responded.
The Vaxmobile provides walk-up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to young people ages 12 to 17 and the Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to residents ages 18 or older. Those who are 12 to 17 and wish to receive a vaccine must have a parent or guardian present.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Oceanside parent Mary Jayne Alvarez-Graci said. “I know in Oceanside people are very divided when it comes to masks and vaccines, but for those students that make the decision to get vaccinated, they have the opportunity to do so.”
This was the first vaccination clinic that the school district put on this academic year. “We have had good turnout when we have done” other clinics in the past, said Oceanside School District Communication Director Donna Kraus. “I think it makes things easier for people. It makes things more convenient for people that want to get vaccinated. Nobody has to do this, so I can’t imagine anything but a pleased reaction, and for people who want it, it’s convenient to do.”
The Vaxmobile has provided two other vaccination clinics in the school district in the last six months. The Vaxmobile was to return to Oceanside High School Oct. 27 to administer second doses, boosters and first doses for those who did not already receive them.
In Nassau County, 80 percent of the total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and over 950,000 people have completed a series of doses, according to the state health department. In early August, the Vaxmobile surpassed 5,000 administered doses, and the number continues to rise as the van makes its way through Hempstead.
For now, the Vaxmobile is not scheduled to return to the Oceanside School District. To see the Vaxmobile’s weekly schedule around Hempstead, visit hempsteadny.gov.