The slow rollout of vaccines is frustrating community advocates across the borough. The elderly and frail were supposed to be a priority group, especially in communities hard hit by the pandemic. However, according to the city data, while the elderly make up about 80% of deaths from COVID-19, only one in six seniors have received the first dose of the vaccine.
In North Brooklyn, St. Nicks Alliance is joining forces with Southside United HDFC – Los Sures, and The People’s Firehouse to help residents get appointments and get to them, as well as advocating for nearby vaccination locations and mobile/popup vaccination sites.
“It is terrible that over 80% of COVID fatalities are seniors and they have been so-called prioritized, but yet there are huge obstacles to getting our seniors vaccinated,” said Phil Caponegro, Conselyea Street Block Association President and host to Swinging Sixties Senior Center.
Advocates estimate about 25% of seniors do not have access to the internet to register for vaccination. Furthermore, the registration process is long and complicated, and hard for seniors to navigate on their own. Although there is a hotline through which individuals can make appointments over the phone, the hotline is not available 24/7.
Even those who are able to secure appointments to be vaccinated may have trouble getting to vaccination sites that are spread across the city. Many seniors are unable to leave their homes due to health reasons and fears of catching the virus.
“We have more than 600 elderly residents living in St. Nick’s Alliance managed buildings. Many are frail and have difficulty in getting out in the cold weather. We try to help them sign up for vaccination appointments which can be a difficult and long process. It would be more efficient and safer for these seniors to have a mobile unit come and vaccinate all the residents in each building where they can safely come by appointment without the danger of traveling offsite,” said Frank Lang, St. Nicks Alliance Director of Housing.
“With the cold temperatures and the COVID-19, it is really unsafe for seniors like me to travel. I feel like a prisoner,” said Margarita Almestica, a resident of St Nicks Alliance senior housing developments. “It is unfair for seniors in North Brooklyn to not have access to vaccines in the area.”
“We have appealed to all elected officials and public agencies to assist in opening up vaccinations to our elder populations and we are making all resources and manpower available to help ensure that our seniors do not continue to get overlooked,” stated Jose Leon, Deputy Executive Director at St. Nicks Alliance. “As of Friday, February 12, through outreach from Senator Kavanagh’s office, the Governor’s office has offered to look at additional Williamsburg sites proposed by St. Nicks Alliance. Congresswoman Maloney’s Office is working on securing a mobile station for Williamsburg to help support the need. However, nothing has been confirmed and more needs to be done.”
The organizations are proposing vaccine sites at the following locations:
- Los Sures David Santiago Senior Citizens Center, 201 S 4th Street
- Swinging Sixties Senior Center, 211 Ainslie Street
- Senior housing locations:
- Metro Houses, 609 Metropolitan Avenue
- Jennings Hall, 260 Powers Street
- Monsignor Vetro Houses, 320 Devoe Street
- Monsignor Alexius Jarka Hall, 70 Bedford Avenue
- Large housing complexes:
- Lindsay Park Cooperative
- Local NYCHA complexes.