Reporter: Moses Kuwema
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday announced a three-pronged plan to vaccinate homebound seniors and the essential frontline home care workers who care for them. Beginning next week, the City will launch on-site senior vaccination clinics and, with the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March, stand up a vaccination drive for homebound seniors.
To minimize risk for homebound seniors throughout the month of February, the City will aim to vaccinate 25,000 home health aides over the next month, offering dedicated appointments in the areas where they live and work.
“We are moving heaven and earth to get our senior neighbors vaccinated”, said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Now, we are bringing vaccines to seniors right in their communities, ensuring our vaccines go to those who need them most.” “Throughout the pandemic, we have worked to safeguard and protect our homebound older adults, one of the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19. This plan safeguards their health in a comprehensive manner – vaccinating them close to home and vaccinating homecare workers, who throughout the pandemic have continued visiting and caring for older adults in their home. We are grateful to all homecare workers , who are among New York’s heroes and grateful to our City agency partners and community-based partners who are working together to protect our homebound older adults,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.
To meet seniors where they are, the City will set up vaccine clinics at DFTA retirement communities and HPD Senior Buildings. Two on-site vaccination clinics will launch the week of February 15th, with additional locations to be identified and prioritized in the coming weeks:
The City will also ramp up vaccination for homecare aides, home health aides, and personal care aides. These aides will receive priority appointments at City vaccine sites, as well as increased access to five City workforce hubs. The City will also launch new sites dedicated to serving this population.
Given the instability of the mRNA vaccine, the City will begin using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine when it is available to provide in-home vaccination for homebound seniors.
With the help of City agencies, such as FDNY, and our home health care partners, the City aims to provide in-home vaccinations for thousands of homebound seniors.
“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 Johnson & Johnson vaccine directly to them at home, these creative strategies will help ensure we reach and protect NYC residents most at risk.”
“Vaccinating homebound older adults where they live is crucial to protecting their health and safety,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “Our seniors are among the most vulnerable to this virus, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect them.”
“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for announcing this comprehensive plan for making the COVID-19 vaccine available to home-bound individuals and their caregivers, said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “Many of these folks are exactly those who are at greatest risk of COVID-19 complications, so it is imperative that they are given equal access to the vaccine as soon as it is feasible.”
“I am grateful that New York City will be setting up a program in the next few weeks to vaccinate homebound seniors, responding to concerns I and others have raised about our most vulnerable neighbors. I continue to encourage the City to consider using trusted community hubs including senior centers, social adult day care facilities, and places of worship as additional vaccine distribution sites when supply comes online. Together, we will protect our elders and the people who care for them,” said State Senator Robert Jackson.
“I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for laying out the first stages of a plan to vaccinate homebound seniors, who are among those most at risk for severe COVID-19. Prioritizing home health aides and other caregivers for vaccine appointments will further help protect homebound seniors. There is still more work to be done to encourage New York State to grant vaccine eligibility for family caregivers, and to serve every homebound senior throughout the city, but this is a solid first step,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.
“Our most-neediest New Yorkers will have an opportunity to be vaccinated in their homes. People have been faced with long lines and exposure to the virus by having to leave their home. This is what equity in medicine looks like. Thank you Mayor DeBlasio for this much needed initiative to vaccinate our homebound community,” said Assemblywoman Chantel Jackson.
“JASA is eager to partner with city government and health care providers to get vaccines out to those who are homebound and to their caregivers, essential workers who are a lifeline for fragile older adults living in the community. We applaud this focus on older adults who have struggled with isolation since the pandemic began,” said Kathryn Haslanger, Chief Executive Officer, JASA.
“Getting New Yorkers vaccinated against COVID-19 is critical for our city’s recovery. We know that settlement houses and other CBOs are trusted messengers in their neighborhoods and must be a crucial part of our city’s vaccination outreach efforts. These steps taken by the city to enable CBOs to play a greater role in outreach and appointment scheduling will go a long way to ensure that New Yorkers who need the COVID-19 vaccine are able to get it. We must strive for access and equity in vaccine distribution, and we look forward to the work ahead,” Susan Stamler, Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses.
“On behalf of our senior-serving member agencies, the Asian American Federation is THRILLED to hear the news that the Mayor will be expanding vaccinations to homebound seniors. For weeks, we have advocated for the inclusion of our elders, especially those who with limited mobility or are homebound. Because of various limitations, this special population required a customized solution, and we thank the Mayor and his staff who heard every idea proposed by the vaccine equity task force, and worked with us to get our elders the vaccines they need. Our shared goal is to get every New Yorker vaccinated as quickly as possible, and we are grateful to our City’s leadership to start making our goal a reality,” said Jo-Ann Yo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation.
“LiveOn NY commends Mayor Bill de Blasio and the entire NYC Vaccine Command Center for their attention and dedication to the needs of older New Yorkers who are unable to leave their homes,” states Allison Nickerson, Executive Director of LiveOn NY. “LiveOn NY is appreciative of the Homebound Vaccination Plan and we are heartened by the impact this work will have on the lives of New Yorkers – so many of whom are struggling immensely during this pandemic. As the vaccination work continues, we look forward to continued collaboration with the city to making New York a better place age,” said Allison Nickerson, Executive Director. LiveOn NY.
“It’s very reassuring to see first-hand how NYC’s aging network – from top government leaders to grass-root community organizations – have been working together to guarantee our homebound elderly are getting vaccinated,” said Rimas J. Jasin, Executive Director, PSS.
“FPWA continues to partner with faith communities as well as a wide array of human services organizations to meet the needs and provide for the most vulnerable in our society. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we know that older adults have been one of the populations most affected by the virus itself and its resulting impacts,” said Reverend Derrick Harkins, Director of Membership and Strategic Partnerships at FPWA. “The city’s plan to vaccinate older homebound adults and their caregivers is a powerful and effective way to make the vaccine available to some of those at the highest risk and with the most limited access. This is another important step in providing equitable access to vaccines for all New Yorkers,” said Reverend Derrick Harkins, Director of Membership and Strategic Partnerships at FPWA.
“Human services providers have worked tirelessly over this last year to ensure homebound seniors had the care and contact they needed to stay home and healthy. The Human Services Council applauds New York City’s plan to prepare for scaled up vaccine distribution for those who cannot leave their homes, work now to get vaccines to those who are homebound, and to take a realistic and holistic approach by including home care workers in vaccine eligibility. The workers who care for our populations are at great risk themselves, and those they serve need them to be safe and healthy. Prioritizing these workers, along with the many other human services workers out in the community every day, is an essential component in helping our homebound neighbors, said Michelle Jackson, Executive Director, Human Services.
“Sunnyside Community Services’ more than 1,000 home health aides, our frontline heroes, have provided and continue to provide critical care to New York’s homebound residents during the pandemic. We are pleased to see that both groups will now be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccine access,” said Judy Zangwill, Executive Director, Sunnyside Community Services.
“PHI applauds Mayor De Blasio for his leadership in recognizing the essential role of the home care workforce. Throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis, these workers have continued to provide daily services to long-term care clients, who are especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s effects. Priority access to the vaccine is critical to the stability of home care across New York City, and to the safety of this workforce and their families,” said Jodi M. Sturgeon, President PHI.
“1199SEIU is happy to support the City’s efforts to vaccinate as many of our valuable homecare workers as possible,” said Rona Shapiro, Executive Vice President 1199SEIU.
Reporter: Moses Kuwema