Dozens of seniors received their first dose of COVID vaccinations last week, thanks to a partnership between the Philadelphia Archdiocese and a local community health organization.
Catholic Housing and Community Services (CHCS) teamed up with the nonprofit Philadelphia FIGHT to host a March 10 on-site vaccination clinic CHCS’s St. Edmond Senior Community Center in the city’s Point Breeze section.
The center, one of four operated by CHCS, provides a broad range of services for adults aged 60 and older, as part of the agency’s continuum of senior care.
Staff from SunRay Drugs Specialty Pharmacy administered approximately 60 jabs of the Pfizer vaccine to clients, who had been advised of the clinic through CHCS’s “herculean effort” to telephone seniors, said Jennifer Wright, Philadelphia FIGHT’s director for COVID-19 community testing.
CHCS director Heather Huot said her staff has engaged in “a lot of outreach across the board” to ensure older adults can gain access to COVID testing, vaccination and related resources.
“It’s very overwhelming for seniors,” said Huot. “They need a lot of help, and many feel isolated.”
For Barbara Montano, months of COVID-related confinement made for “a scary situation.”
A client at CHCS’s Star Harbor Senior Community Center in West Philadelphia, Montano said she was frustrated by being “stuck in the house,” adding that she longed for her normally active routine.
“Watching TV is not my thing,” she said. “I like to move around, and I missed everybody.”
Community resident Sarah Vaughan agreed, saying she “just wanted to get (her) shot and get it over with” so her grandchildren could visit.
St. Edmond center director Kathy Boles said most of her clients felt the same, with grandchildren topping the list of reasons cited for getting the vaccine.
While COVID-19 vaccination providers can, according to federal guidelines, seek reimbursement for the actual administration of the vaccine, “we do not take co-pays, and SunRay does not take co-pays,” said Wright. “This is a free service for those who are in need.”
Some 85% of CHCS staff — many of whom volunteered at the clinic– have already been vaccinated, Huot said.
She added that high proportion is largely due to a collaboration with the archdiocesan Communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence, whose directors worked diligently with the state to ensure doses were allocated to frontline workers and vulnerable populations.
Huot also noted that clients readily accepted the invitation to receive vaccinations based on CHCS’s track record.
“There’s a level of trust already established with us,” she said. “These centers and clinics are in their communities, which are often underserved areas.”
Having received their initial shots, seniors will return to St. Edmond’s in three weeks for their follow-up dose – but a sense of relief has already taken hold.
“I’ll probably go shopping,” said Vaughan. “I like Walmart, and my grandbaby and I like to go there to just to get out of the house, which I haven’t been able to do because of this crazy COVID stuff.”
“I feel free at last,” said Montano.
Editor’s note: Philadelphia FIGHT is not affiliated with former City of Philadelphia vaccination partner Philly Fighting COVID. For more information, visit Philadelphia FIGHT’s website.
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