On Wednesday, District Council 37 stood with community leaders and elected officials in front of the Corona Health Center in Queens (with news conference co-sponsors Make the Road New York, the Commission on the Public’s Health System and the People’s Budget Coalition) and demanded that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) keep the immunization clinic open.
The Corona clinic in Queens and the Tremont Clinic in the Bronx are both slated to close, which would leave the Fort Greene Clinic in Brooklyn as the only clinic in New York City offering free and low-cost immunization.
Standing on 33-34 Junction Blvd., DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts told reporters that DOHMH’s decision to close the facility posed “a threat to public health and safety,” and pointed to the fact that the closings were occurring right before the start of the school year, when parents start immunizing children. DOHMH
immunization clinics help people without means get their kids immunized for diseases like hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and pertussis (whooping cough).
The Fort Greene Immunization Clinic will only be open four hours a day from Monday to Friday. August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
Anthony Feliciano, of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, took the DOHMH to task over leaving low-income New Yorkers with fewer options for their children’s health.
“The commissioner of the NYC DOHMH has a major responsibility to address the health care needs of all New Yorkers and provide vital health services,” said Feliciano. “However, we have seen over several years a pattern of cuts and decisions to offer fewer and fewer direct services, especially to children and low-income families. It is appalling that the communities reliant on a vital resource like immunization clinics have not been consulted. We need a change in the current top-down approach to setting health priorities to a more consultative and open process.”
Without the proper vaccines, children won’t be allowed to attend New York public schools. Last year, the Corona clinic alone served 4,286 children, and its staff administered nearly 8,000 MMR vaccines, 6,600 hepatitis-B vaccines and 3,100 flu vaccines.
Theo Oshiro, executive director of Make the Road NY, talked about the importance of these kinds of clinics serving the underserved.
“The Corona immunization clinic is a vital resource for the Queens community,” said Oshiro. “Without it, local parents will struggle to find a place to get their children the care they need. Our city should be adding health resources, not taking them away.”
This rally was a continuation of last week’s rally, in which DC 37 and other groups were at City Hall to protest the closings of the immunization clinics.
This week, state Sen. Jose Peralta and City Council Member Letitia James both wagged their proverbial fingers at DOHMH.
“This is a rapidly growing community where public services, from health care to school seats, are already stretched thin,” said Peralta. “The city should be expanding services, not cutting them. And it adds insult to injury to close the clinic before the start of the new school year. Parents in this community already have a hard time finding a seat for their children in a real classroom. Now the city is making it harder for them to get their kids immunized for school. Closing the Corona Health Clinic is a short-sighted move in the wrong direction.”
“The Health Department’s proposal to close two of three immunization clinics that serve families citywide would be a disaster, and implementing such a change right before the new term starts would guarantee many children would not be properly immunized,” added James. “The remaining Fort Greene clinic—which would have limited hours—simply cannot handle this citywide demand. There are no clear cost-savings in this plan, and to spring this proposal on parents at the eleventh hour is unfair.”