Memorial Sloan Kettering’s efforts to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine got a booster when First Lady Jill Biden and Anthony Fauci stopped by the community clinic at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City on June 6.
“We’re going to end this outbreak with absolute certainty, and the vehicle to ending it is vaccination,” said Dr. Fauci. “And that’s why I’m so impressed by being here and so honored to be here.” Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that he also felt a personal connection because his father had worked at the MSK pharmacy.
During the 40-minute visit, Dr. Biden spoke to several providers and members of the community, even offering to hold a hand if someone was nervous. The First Lady told a 14-year-old, “You’re exactly who we’re going for. We definitely want [people] 12 and over to be vaccinated.”
Cynthia McCollum, Senior Vice President, Hospital Administration, was approached by the city in late February to organize a clinic to reach underserved populations. Together they agreed Abyssinian Baptist Church would be an ideal location. “We want MSK to be part of an effort to make vaccines available to New York City’s Black and Hispanic communities,” she says. Large numbers of MSK staff stepped forward to help create and staff the clinic.
MSK has been offering vaccines at the Harlem landmark church since April 2021. So far, nearly 10,000 doses have been administered.
“We know communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and face barriers that make it more difficult for them to access these effective and lifesaving vaccines,” says Craig Thompson, MSK’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
Monika Shah, an MSK infectious disease specialist, is Medical Director of the clinic. “When we asked for MSK volunteers,” she says, “we were overwhelmed by the response from doctors, nurses, advanced practice providers, pharmacists, administrators, health educators, and support staff. So many people have pitched in to make it a success.”
This clinic was one of the first to offer a walk-in vaccination program and has never turned anyone away. There are translators fluent in languages from Spanish to Haitian Creole to Mandarin Chinese for non-English speaking residents. The Abyssinian Baptist Church clinic is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and offers vaccinations to anyone ages 12 and up.
Other MSK vaccine outreach efforts include a pop-up clinic at MSK Nassau in partnership with the Nassau County Department of Health. More than 440 residents were vaccinated over the course of eight days earlier this spring.
“We plan to build on the success of our collaborations with the Nassau County Department of Health and Abyssinian Baptist Church in the fight against COVID-19 in future joint cancer-health equity initiatives,” says Carol Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer at MSK.
June 7, 2021