HomeAsian AmericansOpEd: Vaccine distribution lacking in Asian community in NYC

OpEd: Vaccine distribution lacking in Asian community in NYC

By Esther Yang

Vaccine distribution in New York City is like a twilight zone. Calling the phone number to make an appointment is like going to la la land and trying to do the same thing via computer is like going down an endless rabbit hole.

My friend has Parkinson.  She just spent hours on the computer and telephone trying to make an appointment to get her Covid-19 vaccine. She is over 65 and is qualified to receive the vaccine at this time. The red tape of finding someone to answer the phone is maddening. She finally has an appointment in April.

We are in a pandemic, we have vaccines available, why in April? Nevertheless, I decided to go to the Javits center and try changing her appointment in person.

Inside the Javits Center, it was empty – NO lines. We went through many checkpoints, yet still no lines. We have over 8 million New Yorkers, why is the Mayor not promoting a 24/7 vaccine center when we have it available? All I am thinking, is why isn’t Javits Center being promoted?

For the two hours that I was there waiting for my friend to be called, answering questions, I saw employees chatting among themselves. Between the Army Reserve/the National Guard, the appointment receptionist, the interviewer, there are more employees than patients. The ratio must have been 1 patient per 20/25 employees.

I asked Karlin Chan, Community Leader and Activist for his input, 

“It seems the distribution points are in place but there’s a serious shortage of vaccines and outreach to immigrant communities. In a city of immigrants, Mayor DeBlasio incompetent and overwhelmed as usual left the immigrants out”

Photo by Esther Yang

Anthony Feliciano, Director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System and I are doing a FREE community forum about The Clinical and Social aspects of Covid 19 Vaccination because I am just fed up how the Vaccine distribution is being handled. I asked his input to make sure the insanity I am seeing is real. Oh how I wish it is not real. You can register here.

“First finger-pointing should begin with the federal government and its lack of direction from the beginning of the pandemic,” said Feliciano. “With the lack of leadership and direction regarding precautions, no one should have expected an efficient and expedient distribution of vaccines. We had 10 months to be ready to distribute this vaccine as quickly as possible. It seems like the necessary preparation steps were not done.”

Here’s more on my annoyance – we have over 8 millions New Yorkers. I did not see one single Asian Patient at the Javits Center. Zero Asian and Zero African American patients and only three Latino patients.  I overheard the MD that Javits Center has 10, 000 vaccines per day. Really? Who are they giving this 10,000 vaccines to every day?

What about the rest of the minority seniors in New York who are eligible for vaccines?

According to  Asian American Federation, “There are around 175,000 Asian seniors in New York City, which make them about 14% of the senior population in the City.

72% of Asian seniors were limited English proficient, so the City needs to make sure all vaccine information for seniors is translated into all the languages spoken by seniors in the City.  The Asian community as a whole is about 16% of the total NYC population.”

Where are those 175,000 Asian seniors?

More of my annoyance –  not only there was zero Asian patient, I also did not see any Asian Receptionist, Nurse, MD, National Guard/Army reserve. How is it possible out of over 8 millions New Yorker, I am the only Asian in Javits Center. Correction, I saw a 30 something female Asian tourist and also another 30 something male Asian going down the escalator.  

Photo by Esther Yang

Asian American Federation stated – “The Asian community as a whole is about 16% of the total NYC population.”

I find it hard to believe that Asians did not want to work. Were job opportunity offered to Asians in Javits Center? 

I reached out to Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou trying to make sense of my experience re: Vaccine Distribution –

“Vaccine distribution has begun in New York City, but general disorganization and lack of language accessibility of rollout resources has excluded communities of color,” said Niou. “Throughout the roll out process so far, there has been limited information on who can get the vaccine, where they can get it, and how to get the vaccine. This struggle is only amplified by the lack of language accessible and culturally competent resources, especially for AAPI New Yorkers. For example, the City’s vaccine reservation hotline only offers English and Spanish translated lines. While some online resources are available, many seniors are unable to navigate the internet effectively, which makes calling in their only option. If the goal is to get the majority of at-risk New Yorkers vaccinated first, the City and the State must reform its outreach and engagement process to ensure people of color New Yorkers who have suffered the most from this pandemic are provided with equal access to the vaccine.”

Here are my suggestions to the Mayor’s office, if he cares about NYC.

1.  Instead of letting 8 million New Yorkers go down in the rabbit hole, waiting for hours to make an appointment, wouldn’t it be better if vaccine distribution has no appointment requirement.  Show ID, 1st come, 1st served.

2. What’s up with Vaccines being thrown out

OMG, seriously??? Isn’t it better if people are on standby? No vaccines will ever be wasted.

Photo by Esther Yang

3. Why not have a 24/7 vaccine distribution center. I am confused as to why that is not possible? After all, we are a city that never sleeps.

4. I took pictures of empty chairs and empty spaces. The employees there looked bored. Why not put them to good use by promoting the Javits Center Vaccine Distribution Center?  If information is not out there, how can people especially minority seniors know about it.

Here is another tip I discovered – A person’s caretaker is allowed to take the vaccine too. Well, that was not broadcast either. How can we be OUT of this pandemic if the vaccine is not being distributed efficiently and information is being withheld. Go figure???

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