Avella Seeks Help For Constituents Who Never Got Flu Vaccine
Discussions have begun between City Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside) and Dr. Thomas Frieden, Commissioner of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) over the lawmaker’s concerns about the accessibility and distribution of flu vaccinations in Northeast Queens in which Avella’s Council District lies.
Avella stated, “Even though many of the residents of the 19th Council District are fortunate enough to receive their health care from private doctors, significant numbers couldn’t get vaccinated. Some local doctors were not able to obtain the vaccine until December and could only suggest that their patients seek assistance at the Jamaica and Corona DOHMH walk-in centers.”
The health agency had set up vaccination facilities for Queens seniors in the two clinics.
At the peak of the nationwide shortage of flu vaccine late last year, Avella had telephoned Frieden about problems which had arisen in his district for seniors and others who were unable to get vaccinated. Last Tuesday, he met with Frieden to provide details about gaps in the system and the ways in which they impacted the residents of Northeast Queens.
Avella said he and Frieden discussed possible solutions to better serve residents of his district, particularly the elderly and other vulnerable persons who are not able to get to and/or wait in line at the DOHMH clinics.
Alluding to the possible broader, citywide aspects of the problem, Avella stated, “I am committed to improving the ways in which the city reaches out to senior centers, health clinics and community groups. I look forward to working with Commissioner Frieden to expand health resources in Northeast Queens and the availability of flu vaccinations in my district.”
Avella did not reveal if any cases of serious illness resulted from the lack of vaccinations he complained about, nor did he make any charges to the Health Commissioner that the lack of vaccinations had caused any serious cases to occur.
GOOD NEWS ON FLU FRONT: Meanwhile, there was good news last week that enough flu vaccine will be available when the next flu season rolls around toward the end of this year.
It was reported last week that British health officials had given Chiron Corporation, which produces flu vaccine for the U.S., permission to resume production of the vaccine in time to avoid a future shortage.
However, before the vaccine can be sold in this country again it will need the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
British authorities had stopped Chiron from producing vaccine early last October because of bacterial contamination and quality control problems in its Liverpool plant.
TAX TIME TIPS: City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. says free tax assistance information for seniors is available from two sources:
VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) 1-800-829-1040, offers free tax help to low- and moderate-income people—those with income up to $36,000 a year—who cannot prepare their own returns. Volunteers from various programs receive training from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and help prepare returns for people who qualify. VITA sites are located at community centers, libraries, schools, malls and other convenient locations. For a VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.
TCE (Tax Consulting for the Elderly), also at 1-800-829-1040, offers help to seniors 60 or older. Trained volunteers are often retired individuals. As part of the TCE program, AARP also offers free tax counseling at more than 9,000 sites nationwide. AARP assists low- to middle-income persons with special attention to those 60 and older.
For TCE call 1-800-829-1040.
For AARP call 1-888-227-7669.
To get tax help from any of these organizations, bring Social Security cards for yourself and dependents: birth dates for anyone included in your tax return; current year’s tax information and documents, including wage and earnings statements (W-2, W-2 G, 1099-R forms from all employers; interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099); a copy of last year’s return; bank routing and account numbers, and day care providers’ tax identification number and total paid to him/her.
Both spouses of married couples filing jointly who wish to file electronically must be present to sign the return.
TANGO, ANYONE? The Sunnyside Community Services Senior Center, 43-31 39th St., Sunnyside offers tango classes for anyone over 60 years of age Thursdays from 2 to 3 p.m. Come early, between noon and 1 p.m. and have a hot lunch before the tango lessons begin. There’s a small fee to cover instructor’s costs. Call Sonia at 718-784-6173, ext. 112 or Richard at ext. 111 for information.
Dancing’s fun and healthy, too!!