Last week, St. Nicks Alliance, Los Sures, The People’s Firehouse and other groups released a plan to vaccinate 3,000 seniors and home care attendants. Among their demands of health officials is to open more vaccination sites, add mobile sites and streamline the vaccine registration process.
“We have appealed to all elected officials and public agencies to assist in opening up vaccinations to our elder populations,” said Jose Leon, deputy executive director of St. Nicks Alliance, “and we are making all resources and manpower available to help ensure that our seniors do not continue to get overlooked.”
According to the groups, only one in six seniors citywide have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of February 10. They also estimate that nearly 25 percent of seniors do not have a computer or Internet access.
When they do make an appointment to get the vaccine, seniors may have to travel long distances to get the shot, possibly exposing them to the virus. They noted that in north Brooklyn, only Woodhull Hospital and ODA Primary Healthcare Network have served as vaccination sites.
“In the beginning, a lack of local vaccination sites had been an obstacle for seniors,” said Juan Ramos, executive director of Southside United HFDC-Los Sures. “Now those who lack online access or the tech savvy skills have been unable to register despite the growth in the availability of the vaccine.
“When signing up, many seniors encountered snafus due to technical glitches with the system becoming overwhelmed for appointments,” added Ramos, whose organization operates two senior centers in Williamsburg. “Many seniors who are homebound do not have an email address to utilize an online system.”
The plan devised by the three community organizations includes setting up both fixed and mobile vaccination sites at community facilities, senior housing sites, and large housing complexes, such as Lindsay Park Cooperative.
They also call for partnering with providers to streamline the appointment registration process and allowing local groups to register seniors for vaccines. St. Nicks Alliance would then make their vehicles available to provide transportation for seniors.
Finally, the plan calls for teaming up with local drug stores to bring vaccines to the homes of the homebound and their home care workers.
Margarita Almestica, a resident of Monsignor Vetro Houses in Williamsburg, said with the cold weather and the virus still a threat, seniors like her do not feel safe to travel.
“I feel like a prisoner,” she said. “It is unfair for seniors in north Brooklyn to not have access to vaccines in the area.”
Myrna Yen, the Assisted Living Program (ALP) administrator at Jennings Hall in East Williamsburg, said they have reached out to local medical providers and the city’s health department requesting their assistance to provide vaccines for their seniors.
“We remain hopeful that as the vaccine allocation improves and ongoing advocacy for our seniors continues, opportunities will open up for on-site vaccination in our local senior centers and senior housing buildings,” Yen said.