DFTA, Meals on Wheels, Indy Pharmacies Ready for Senior Vaccination

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The city’s Vaccine For All rollout plan hasn’t been without its hangups, and racial inequities, as well as issues vaccinating seniors, are still the highest concerns. With the Biden administration shipping one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines straight to retail pharmacies, the real question is, what does that look like for your local pharmacist in real-time? 

Steve Moore, chairman of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY), spoke about how this vaccine rollout will be carried out by pharmacies at the local level.

“One of the great things about community pharmacies by nature is that we’re located in a neighborhood. If you get a vaccine to a pharmacy, you’re going to solve a lot of those problems. Community-based providers can worry more about getting the vaccine to the patient instead of the patient to the vaccine,” said Moore. 

Moore said there are many pharmacists working with communities to address disadvantaged populations. One of the drawbacks for seniors getting vaccinated is sometimes lack of internet or transportation, he said.

New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) Spokesperson Dina Montes said the agency has been working diligently to assist older adults and the elderly with getting vaccine information and appointments. “We have vaccine calls every day. Tens of thousands are being placed every week, we help them navigate the vaccine finder and book appointments. We’re helping them to book transportation because a lot of our older adults live in desert areas that don’t have too many buses or subway stops,” said Montes.

Montes said DFTA helps arrange free transportation through Access-A-Ride, ambulette, or taxi services to get to vaccine appointments.

Citymeals on Wheels, the major nonprofit that serves meals regularly to nearly 20,000 elderly and homebound seniors across the city, is working with partners at the community level to advocate for more improved access to the COVID-19 vaccine for seniors and staff, said a Citymeals Spokesperson.

“At this time, we are not involved in testing, tracing or administering vaccines. We are ready to work with the city, in any way we can, to accelerate vaccination for this vulnerable group, especially the homebound elderly who are unable to get out to vaccine sites,” said a Citymeals Spokesperson.

“Our biggest challenge is that the supply just doesn’t even come close,” said Moore. “New York is just big, we’ve got millions of people that need to be vaccinated just in this phase that we’re in right now and we’re getting 300,000 doses a week, more now. It’s a challenge, which we knew. We’ve known for a while.” 

Moore said specifically it’s a supply issue and a deadline issue, since once a vial is opened it has a limited shelf life in some cases. 

“We go into homes for flu shots. That immunization does not have a ticking clock on it like these vaccines do,” said Moore. 

Part of the federal government’s rollout plan is to ship vaccines directly to pharmacies big and small.

“In the federal partner program, there are 19 different partners, of those six of them work with independent pharmacists that signed up. The other 13 work with regional chains and grocery stores. Those doses will be distributed amongst all of the partners,” said Moore.

Moore said a portion of the small, independent pharmacies had already been enrolled in the state’s partnership program to deliver vaccines about a month ago, and others are working with the 10 regional vaccine hubs throughout the state to get doses out. 

Moore said that the rollout will likely be shipped out in shifts. “I would anticipate that all are receiving vaccines to vaccinate patients within a few months,” said Moore.

Mathieu Eugene
City Council Member Mathieu Eugene

City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens) said he’s confident that with the proper strategy, the city will be able to inoculate senior citizens and help protect them from the spread of COVID-19.  

“We are at a critical stage in this pandemic, and it is important that all parties involved work together and operate with open lines of communication to allow for the efficient delivery of vaccinations to our senior citizens,” said Eugene.

“If there are obstacles that prevent the equal distribution of vaccines to our senior citizen population, then we must come together and look for new paths to achieve the goal,” he added.

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