The center is in the basement of the oldest Sikh temple on the East Coast, and attendees removed their shoes off as part of religious custom while waiting in line to receive the vaccine.
Elected officials toured the facility on Friday, including Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Assemblyman David Weprin, and Councilwoman Adrienne Adams.
Hochul said it was “uplifting” to see senior citizens getting vaccinated in a community with such a high rate of infection.
“People will leave here today with a whole new lease on life, feeling a level of comfort that they are going to be okay.” Hochul said.
When asked about new reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo withheld data in regards to nursing homes affected by COVID-19, Hochul said her focus is only on the Richmond Hill vaccination site.
“I’m just here today to make sure that we have vaccines out,” she said. “These vaccines are very trustworthy. I don’t think anyone will ever question that.”
Weprin said there were 400 doses at the facility, which is double the amount available when the Citi Field vaccination center opened on Wednesday.
“They’re looking to get more,” Weprin said. “We’re trying to get it as quickly as possible. We should get enough vaccines soon enough where you shouldn’t even have to make an appointment.”
Weprin added that it was important for Richmond Hill to have a vaccination center, and hopes to get the word out.
“We’re targeting this area,” Weprin said. “The presence makes a point that this is safe, that people should get the vaccine if they are eligible.”
Sikh Cultural Society president Jatinder Boparai received a vaccine, and said his community is excited to have them at the temple.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this, so there is no complaining in my community,” Boparai said. “We’re very thankful for this vaccine program.”
Varun Sharma helped his uncle and father get vaccinated at the temple, and was able to receive a dose as well.
“I was surprised they had it in the temple,” Sharma said. “I feel good that they have it because not a lot of people know how to get it, especially elderly people. I’m glad that they are doing it here.”
He added the process was “very professional and smooth,” and encouraged more people to make reservations online.
Jenny Raykis, a pharmacist working at the facility, said the temple is welcoming and hopes it will set an example for other communities to use vaccines to fight COVID-19.
“It is safe, and we should spread the word,” Raykis said. “People are looking for solutions and a way out. This setting here in particular is very approachable.”
Eligible New Yorkers can make an appointment at nyc.gov/vaccinefinder or by calling 877-VAX-4NYC.