BY ROSE ADAMS
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday a three-part plan to protect homebound seniors from COVID-19 — including setting up vaccine clinics around the Five Boroughs specifically designated for the elderly, inoculating home health aides, and taking steps toward bringing the vaccine into the homes of older New Yorkers next month.
“We are moving heaven and earth to get our senior neighbors vaccinated,” Hizzoner said at a press conference in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. “We have to do this urgently. We cannot leave any of our seniors behind, and our homebound seniors are amongst the most vulnerable people in New York City — so, it’s gonna be harder to reach them, but we will reach them.”
With the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which requires only one dose — sometime in March, the city will organize an effort for healthcare workers to travel to the homes of seniors who are unable to leave due to physical ailments.
“One shot only, that will be a blessing,” de Blasio said.
Until then, de Blasio said that medical personnel who care for homebound seniors will be given priority at city-run vaccine clinics, which will help ensure that they do not bring the virus into vulnerable New Yorkers’ homes.
“To protect seniors who have to stay at home over the course of a month, we will vaccinate 25,000 home health aides who are the lifeline for our homebound seniors,” the mayor said. “That will protect the seniors and the aides alike.”
On top of those plans, the city will also establish dedicated clinics at retirement communities and senior living facilities around the city — starting on Feb. 15 with the Warbasse Cares Program facility in Brighton Beach, and the Morningside Retirement & Health Services complex in Manhattan.
“We’ll reach them right there,” de Blasio said. “These will be the beginning of a much bigger effort to reach homebound seniors in their own buildings.”
Over the coming weeks, the city will work to identify more sites where large elderly populations live, according to health officials.
The announcement comes weeks after southern Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger and state Senator Diane Savino first urged the city to devise a plan to vaccinate homebound seniors, arguing that the vulnerable elders were getting left behind in the city’s vaccination effort.
“Here we are, facing a global pandemic, with thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their lives,” said Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend, in late January. “We still don’t have a comprehensive and cohesive plan to vaccinate homebound seniors or even an adequate plan to vaccinate seniors in general.”
On top of the physical difficulties of many seniors to trek to locations where they could get vaccinated, the city’s website and phone system for scheduling appointments has presented another major obstacle for elderly New Yorkers looking to get inoculated.
Last week, a Bronx senior called to make an appointment at a vaccination site inside a local public housing complex only to find that the receptionist didn’t know that the site existed.
“I had tried calling and registering online with no success,” said the senior, Gerri Yoshida.
It wasn’t until one day before the state-sponsored pop-up site opened that the receptionist heard that seniors could come in for walk-in appointments — which contradicted the state’s claim that seniors had to call ahead.
Unsurprisingly, turnout was paltry, Yoshida said.
“Not that many people showed up when I was there,” she said.
Now, the new plan aims to reduce the hurdles for seniors — who are among the most vulnerable to hospitalization and death from the virus.
“Vaccinating vulnerable seniors is a key component of our city’s recovery effort and equity plans,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Harztog. “From opening dedicated vaccine sites for older adults to developing plans to deliver [the] Johnson & Johnson vaccine directly to them at home, these creative strategies will help ensure we reach and protect New York City residents most at risk.”
The city has not yet developed an appointment system for homebound seniors in need of receiving the vaccine at their homes, which will begin in March. Home healthcare aides and elderly New Yorkers who are able to travel can head to www.vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or call 1-877-VAX-4NYC.
Additional reporting by Aidan Graham. This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.