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New COVID-19 testing, vaccine site opens at Astoria Houses

Residents of Western Queens and Astoria Houses now have a new and closer COVID-19 vaccination and testing site made out of repurposed shipping containers.

The temporary medical care unit located just steps from the Astoria Houses Community Center will be operated by NYC-based charity hospital, The Floating Hospital, and will provide free vaccines and tests. The site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NYS Gov. Hochul shakes hands with residents of the Astoria Houses

With only a single permanent vaccination site located within a half-mile of Astoria Houses, and just two permanent vaccination sites in the 11102 area code, the lack of access to vaccines has shown higher case and death rates in the area compared to other parts of Queens and New York City.

In the area code 11102, there is a case rate of 30,300 per 100,000 individuals, compared to 13,350 and 12,600 in Queens and New York City, respectively. The death rate within the same zip code is approximately 616 per 100,000, compared to 448 and 408 to the borough and city, respectively.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was joined by NYS Governor Kathy Hochul, NYC Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, and other community leaders to unveil the new 40-foot-long medical care center in the courtyard of the housing complex.

“We learned during COVID that there are great inequities in health care, there are great needs, and that we have to do a better job to support and provide health care, equally, to all people,” Maloney said.

The temporary medical care unit was designed by a research and development consortium composed of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and The Tuchman Foundation. Maloney worked with the aforementioned agencies, as well as the New York City Housing Authority, to secure the placement for the temporary healthcare unit.

Hochul praised the leadership of Maloney, as well as echoing similar sentiments about unequal access to healthcare.

“Today, we begin to right the wrongs of the past. If anything, this pandemic demonstrates that there are systemic disparities in healthcare access and therefore healthcare outcomes,” Hochul said. “Nowhere do we see that more intensely than in this neighborhood and in this community.”

Claudia Coger, the former Astoria Houses Tenants Association President, said that a high number of unvaccinated individuals live in the neighborhood. She says access is key when it comes to providing knowledge to the place she has called home for her entire life.

“Let’s get rid of some of the excuses,” Coger said.

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