HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — On Monday, as the nation remembered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there was a new effort to improve racial equity in our area.

Several vaccine distribution sites were opened in minority communities hardest hit by the coronavirus, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

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The line at Union Baptist Church in Hempstead was for seniors getting the coveted COVID-19 vaccine vaccine, without the need for a computer or a long drive.

“It will help save lives,” 82-year-old Dolores Lewis said.

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One-day vaccination pop-up sites were unveiled in untraditional locations, with more to come in hard-hit communities.

“We are committed to doing events in communities that we know have been crushed by COVID. We know that our Black and brown communities have suffered disproportionately,” Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said.


The areas are being hit with higher infection rates, hospitalization and deaths after entering the pandemic with a long history of health disparities, from structural racism, unequal education, and less access to health care.

“The Black and brown communities have been underserved greatly as it relates to health care. Five to one we were disproportionately affected,” said Bishop Lionel Harvey of First Baptist Cathedral in Westbury.

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The sites are run by Nassau County and the state, including one at Grace Cathedral in Uniondale, in keeping with Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s mandate to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine.

“It’s fitting that we are doing it on this day as we remember a man who moved mountains for racial equality, and as we continue to fight a COVID crisis that has actually amplified racial and economic disparities,” said Karim Camara of the governor’s faith-based Community Development Services.

The 100 people inoculated Monday had to meet state eligibility and other faith-based locations will get their turns in the weeks to come. However, they will be limited by supply.

Nassau County, which has nearly 1.5 million residents, gets fewer than 1,000 doses per day.

“We want to scale this up. We want to get this vaccine into everyone who is eligible and who wants it, but we need more doses. We need more doses desperately,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

The sites are not listed for the general public, but rather sign-up information is distributed by the the church in an effort to serve the traditionally underserved.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff contributed to this report

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Carolyn Gusoff