City Council District 20 candidate Hailing Chen created a community program that has helped book over 500 appointments for elders and immigrants in the community, his campaign announced this week.
The program is geared towards the elderly and immigrants who have trouble booking appointments for themselves due to their inability to access the internet. Because a lot of people fit this demographic, Chen said he and his campaign felt they needed to step in to help.
“We are mostly helping the elders who do not have internet access or who simply don’t know how to use the internet to make appointments,” Chen said. “I think what we do here is very meaningful.”
Chen’s team first began handing out a phone number for people to reach out to if they wanted to make an appointment to get the vaccine back in January.
News of their service spread throughout the community and soon enough, their program gained a lot of traction, booking approximately 100 appointments in their first week.
“It’s been a month or two now and as of now, we have made over 600 successful appointments,” said Kevin Zou, one of Chen’s campaign staff members.
Zou brought to Chen’s attention that the district failed in making the vaccine booking process accessible to immigrants and the elderly.
“I saw that the vaccination process in our community for the elderly and those who aren’t so computer-fluent have trouble making appointments and they have nowhere to go to find help to try to get vaccine appointments.” Zou said.
The team follows the New York state guidelines when booking appointments, Zou said. At first they helped book appointments for essential workers and those over 65-years-old. Now they are able to make appointments for younger members of the community.
Chen said he decided to add this program into his campaign in the hopes that he could reach out to as many people as possible and help them obtain the vaccine.
People outside of Queens have reached out to Chen’s campaign team in hopes of getting vaccines through their program, he said, which led him to believe that the current government isn’t doing enough for people to gain access to the vaccine.
Chen said that when the government decided to keep the vaccination booking process virtual, they impeded the most vulnerable population, elders in the community, from being able to make appointments due to their inability to navigate the internet.
“It is a phenomenon that is all over the city. When the policymakers are making a decision, they do not keep the most vulnerable population in mind,” Chen said.
Chen said that vaccinations are important in getting the city back to normal and that access to vaccine appointments is key.
“I think that is the answer to what the government should do, which is to put the health of the people first. That will increase and improve the quality of life,” Chen said.