BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
The doors to the last remaining immunization walk-in clinic in Queens is set to close at the end of December.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said he is deeply distressed with the decision to shut down the Corona Health Center, made by the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In an effort to rescind the City’s decision, Dromm wrote a letter to Bloomberg on Dec. 9.
“Your administration has been marked by bold public health measures, so it is perplexing why you would weaken our City’s immunization program during your last days in office,” Dromm wrote in the letter.
District Council 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said the Dept. of Health’s decision to close the Corona Health Center on Junction Boulevard, along with the Tremont immunization clinic in the Bronx, is hypocritical and potentially dangerous.
“The clinic closing would leave this vulnerable population uncovered,” Roberts said. “Reducing access to life-saving vaccines could create a needless and costly public health crisis.”
In 2012 alone, the public health facility served 4,286 children and the staff administered nearly 8,000 Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines, 6,000 Hepatitis-B vaccines and 3,700 influenza vaccines.
“The importance of the Corona Health Center cannot be measured in numbers of clients alone,” Dromm said. “This center works with the most challenging population in the City as far as public health efforts are concerned. Many of those served speak little or no English.”
Even though initial plans to shut down the clinic during the first week of Sept. was pushed with the help of community leaders, Dromm said “given these massive challenges, our City needs be less shortsighted and put more resources toward the Corona Health Center rather than close it.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) said it is ironic to see the City Board of Health vote to require annual flu shots for children under the age of six who go to day care and pre-school.
“While in the process of closing its last remaining provider of free and low-cost vaccinations in Queens, the City moves to require annual flu shots for children,” he said.
He said the clinic was able to administer nearly 33,000 vaccines last year to close to 16,000 clients, though it was open only twice a week.
“This is a rapidly growing community where public services, from healthcare to school seats, are already stretched thin,” Peralta said. “The City needs to be expanding services here, not cutting them.”
A spokesperson from the Dept. of Health said the STD and tuberculosis services will continue to be available at the Corona Health Center.
“Less than one percent of all adult vaccinations in New York City occur at our clinics, more than 40 percent of our clinic patients are insured, and free or low-cost vaccinations are available at many other locations near Corona,” a spokesperson said. “After absorbing extensive budget cuts over the last few years, the Health Department has had to scale back services like these where alternative providers are available.”
Patients looking for the same services that the Corona Health Center offered must travel to the Ft. Greene Clinic in Brooklyn.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.