In an effort to increase Brooklyn's vaccine rates above the current 52%, and amidst rising COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, a Bushwick senior center is hosting a mobile COVID-19 vaccination bus until 6:00pm on July 23.
The event at Hope Gardens Multi-Service Neighborhood Senior Center — which began on July 21 — was organized by Brooklyn nonprofit RiseBoro Community Partnership.
The aim is to get vaccines to the 25% of New York seniors who remain unvaccinated. Attendees ages 12 and older are also able to receive a J&J or Pfizer vaccine at no cost.
In New York City, 41% of COVID-19 cases being reported are of the new highly transmissible Delta variant. In Brooklyn alone, there are 9,168 cases of COVID-19.
This is part of the reason why Sandra Christian, RiseBoro's vice president of Seniors, believes this mobile vaccination event is crucial to the health of seniors. However, Christian notes that this effort goes beyond the elderly.
The site at Hope Gardens, which is near a NYCHA building and a youth center, is open to the public, and she says everyone is encouraged to come.
In fact, Joanna Melendez, the assistant director of Hope Gardens, chose to get vaccinated at the event. The 43-year-old recently returned to the office at Hope Gardens, which means she will be in contact with more seniors.
In addition, Melendez is a soon-to-be grandma. She believes getting vaccinated will protect not only herself, but also her future grandchild.
Despite her willingness to get the vaccine, Melendez has encountered many people who are still hesitant.
"A lot of people have said [the vaccine] is going to put a chip in you, you could get blood clots, and stuff like that. You're going to be very sick and sore," Melendez said.
Christian has heard similar fears regarding the vaccine. Some seniors are worried about how pre-existing health conditions could compromise their health. Both have done their best to combat these hesitancies.
"We've tried to have virtual conference calls with other seniors, but it's taken a lot of work and encouragement from our staff," Christian said.
Without the vaccine, seniors have been "homebound," as Christian described it. They have very limited food sources and are unable to see their families and friends. In addition, they cannot participate in recreational activities at the center. The result of this has been the declining health of many devastated seniors who have not been out in over a year.
Still, RiseBoro has been able to get over 2,000 seniors vaccinated. In the last month, mobile vaccine efforts have vaccinated almost 600 people at local senior centers. Melendez hopes this trend will continue at Hope Gardens.
"[Getting vaccinated] is what is going to help us get back to normality," Melendez said. "It's scarier catching COVID and not being vaccinated because you have a higher risk of dying."
The mobile vaccination bus will be housed at Hope Gardens through July 23. The center, located at 195 Linden Street, is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm.