Clarke Talks Vaccines at Kingsbrook Medical Center

Brooklynites looking to get vaccinated lined up outside of Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center this Tuesday, April 6. Photo by Ariama C. Long.

Brooklynites looking to get vaccinated lined up outside of Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, one the oldest hospitals in the borough, as U.S. Rep Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) held an in-person press conference onsite this Tuesday, April 6.

Clarke, joined by LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health System (OBH) and Interfaith Medical Center, promoted the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, highlighted the achievements of Brooklyn’s front-line workers, and toured the vaccination facilities.

Frontline worker sanitizes chairs for the COVID-19 vaccination site at Kingsbrook. Photo by Ariama C. Long.

“Our frontline workers, including here at Kingsbrook have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 first hand,” began Clarke. “Now I’m proud to say help is not just on the way, it’s here.”

US Rep Yvette D. Clarke.

The eligibility to get vaccinated is now for people over the age of 16. Clarke added that she believes there will be an emergency authorization for students and children younger than that so they can attend school unimpeded.

“As of last night 3,372,888 people in [New York State] have been fully vaccinated and that’s approximately 15%. 34% of which are our seniors. So far over 4.4 million doses have been administered across the city and we are only just beginning,” said Clarke.

The cavernous ballroom at Kingsbrook is split down the middle with a large stage and projector on the left, where the others gave their speeches, and a vaccination operation on the right. Across from them, people of all ages and backgrounds shuffled in one by one through tables and chairs where staff sat to accommodate them before moving behind a large curtain at the back of the room for privacy.

Once a free shot was received, patients moved around the other end of the curtain to one of the massive comfy leather chairs arranged for them to relax in as music played in the background. Staff regularly came by to wipe the chairs down for the next person or encourage someone to rotate and massage the arm that was injected.   

Brooklyn resident, and ex-nurse, gets first dose of vaccine at Kingsbrook and says it’s ironic to be the one getting a shot. Photo by Ariama C. Long.

Ron Levy, Director of Pharmacy at Kingsbrook, testified that the surge of COVID-19 cases last year had been the most exigent experience he had had in his 17 years at the hospital. “We usually do pretty well, but at one point we had 30 codes a day,” said Levy. 

Levy said the reason the hospital’s staff and pharmacists are so motivated to aid in the vaccination efforts is because they “never want to go back.” 

“It might sound a little corny, but it really is a point of pride,” said Levy. “People get excited in the text groups, like oh we did 200 or so vaccines today. It’s an act of passion.”

Paul Rosenfeld, executive director at OBH, added that many people working in the room to deliver vaccinations have other jobs in the hospital as well. “I’d also like to thank our 1199 union delegates who are over in the corner over there. They’ve really been staffing this day and night seven days a week,” said Rosenfeld.

As of April 5, Kingsbrook has administered 21,146 vaccinations with 18,229 going to community members, and 59,923 vaccinations were administered by the OBH System, according to Levy. Levy said at the current peak Kingsbrook did about 800 vaccinations in a day.

On site pharmacists monitor the Pfizer-Moderna and J&J vaccines for “freshness.” Photo by Ariama C. Long.

At least 570 have been single dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines, which according to Levy, the hospital tries to administer to elderly patients so they don’t have to return for a second time. Levy said that Kingsbrook has been very fortunate to have all three vaccine brands on hand, Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. They were using Pfizer and J&J vaccines for walk-ins coming in before, during and after the conference, said Levy.

 “I think there’s ample supply of those currently and more supply coming in. It’ll come down to what the CDC recommends for additional vaccines. There’s more companies making vaccines,” said Chief Quality Officer at One Brooklyn Health System Dr. Kurt S. Kodroff said about the growing controversy over the Astrazeneca brand not available to the public in the U.S but has been in some trials here and overseas.

Concerned reports worldwide have come in about links to Astrazenaca’s vaccine and rare blood clots in the brain. So much so that the Oxford trial is on pause until they get more information from the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), “which is currently undergoing a ‘serious and detailed review’ of the shot,” reported Forbes. 

Both Clarke and Brown spoke to the “mistrust” surrounding the vaccine in communities of color. 

US Rep Yvette Clarke (left) and CEO at OBH LaRay Brown (right). Photo by Ariama C. Long.

“We must not adopt this harmful mindset. What I’m seeing here at Kingsbrook, I am of the impression that we are at the tipping point,” said Clarke. “People are adopting the idea of being vaccinated.”

“There has been much talk about vaccine hesitancy among communities of color,” said Brown. “From my perspective it’s really not about vaccine hesitancy, it’s about access. And when you make a service easy for people to get we know from testimonials that people will come.”

Brown said the real holdup to vaccinations, apart from locations, were complicated appointment systems that many, especially elderly, couldn’t navigate or didn’t have access to.

Newly appointed District Manager at Brooklyn’s Community Board 9 Dante Arnwine, pointed out that he sees plenty enthusiasm from his community youth to go get vaccinated because of potential clout on the internet while the elderly residents are a little more inclined to go because of serious health reasons.

“It’s trendy on social media, you know people share the stickers and photos online,” said Arnwine. “If that’s what it takes for people to go get vaccinated then that’s what it takes.”

[Updated Thurs, April 8 with corrections]