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Nassau, agencies team up to get vulnerable communities vaccinated

Chloe Tunison, a resident at Woodbury's The Center

Chloe Tunison, a resident at Woodbury's The Center For Developmental Disabilities, celebrates getting the vaccine from at ProHEALTH in Lake Success on Saturday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Nassau County is donating COVID-19 vaccine doses to help inoculate vulnerable communities, including the homeless and developmentally disabled.

County officials partnered with the health care organization ProHEALTH in Lake Success on Saturday to administer more than 60 vaccines to members and staff of Woodbury's The Center For Developmental Disabilities and the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead.

Nassau also partnered with Northwell Health to hold a pop-up clinic in Westbury to vaccinate 500 people at St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope school. That event was aimed at reaching minority communities — which experts say have been hit hard by the virus — through the county’s office of Hispanic Affairs and Northwell Health’s Equity Taskforce.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who attended both events, urged anyone eligible for the vaccine to get it, and called it "the passport back to the world of normal," with schools and businesses reopening.

"We’re doing everything we can on the county level to get vaccines in arms of as many people as we possibly can," Curran said. "At the beginning, it was a real issue of supply versus demand. I think we’re at the point where supply is starting to reach the demand, which is good news, but we’re not there yet. There’s more demand than supply of the actual vaccine."

Nassau County already has administered 350,000 first doses of the vaccine to more than 25% of the county’s 1.2 million population, or one-third of all adults. Curran said the county has the highest percentage in downstate New York to be vaccinated.

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ProHEALTH provided transportation Saturday to its clinic in Lake Success for the homeless, the hungry and others so they could be given their first dose. The organization also scheduled return appointments for a second shot, said Dana Lopez, spokeswoman for the INN.

"It’s a relief," Lopez said. "This ensures the guests who visit facilities for a meal at the Mary Brennan Soup Kitchen, to utilize social services at the Center for Transformative Change, or who live in emergency housing shelters, are protected from the virus when they otherwise may not have had that option."

ProHEALTH, which spans from Riverhead to New York City, is delivering vaccines at its 50 locations. As the supply of vaccines becomes more widely available, it will work to deliver them in communities where residents may not have transportation, said ProHEALTH chief medical officer Dr. Ian Leber.

The developmentally disabled are especially vulnerable while living in group home settings across Long Island, said Jay Silverstein, executive director of The Center For Developmental Disabilities.

"The devastation wreaked upon our society by the pandemic has hit certain populations harder than others," Silverstein said. "Nursing homes, the poor and minority groups have been among those most ravaged. Another group disproportionally suffering and dying are individuals with developmental disabilities."

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