Notes from the Field: Vaccinations


Notes from the Field: Vaccinations image


The Network recently caught up with three providers – West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Concern for Independent Living, and The Fortune Society – to gauge how vaccination roll out was going and what creative solutions they found to address barriers like vaccine hesitancy, mobility and transportation issues, and vaccine access.

WSFSSH enrolled in a federal program in which CVS vaccinated residents onsite, Concern for Independent Living hosted an onsite hub in Brooklyn in partnership with Nate’s (a Red Hook based pharmacy) and Enexia Specialty Pharmacy and on Long Island in partnership with Medford Chemist, and The Fortune Society hosted a vaccine POD in partnership with Allied Physicians. They shared details about the events and strategies they used below.

On access:

At Fortune’s onsite event held at Castle Gardens, our supportive, affordable apartment complex in West Harlem, we administered 157 vaccinations to Fortune staff and participants, as well as to clients referred by other service providers. Having the vaccinations available onsite was most important for our community -- a community that has faced incarceration and, in many cases, developed an extreme distrust of formal medical services. The onsite vaccinations were convenient. Clients didn’t have to travel outside the neighborhood, go to other boroughs, or wait in line, all of which could have been deterrents. We had very few cancellations and enjoyed a really great turnout rate.
Providing vaccinations onsite at Fortune also significantly increased the trust factor and legitimized the process for our participants. Since they trust us, and we were offering the vaccine, it gave them confidence that this was really legit. So many of our clients have had traumatic experiences with homelessness, substance use, and incarceration, so having vaccinations onsite made them feel like, “I’m not doing this alone.” We provided a level of support, and that creates trust. – Angela Scott, Associate Vice President of Housing – Congregate Programs, The Fortune Society

We have done 27 onsite clinics and 6 offsite clinics. It has been night and day in terms of how many vaccinations we see onsite versus offsite. When the vaccinations are onsite, people see their neighbors doing it walking by the common room. Planning and getting them to an off-site appointment is not easy. – Claire Hilger, Deputy Director / Chief Operating Officer, West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing

On Long Island at our Renaissance Village SP-SRO, in partnership with Medford Chemist, we ran a second dose clinic. We are proud to say that 148 Concern clients and staff received their final dose of the Moderna vaccine. It was a great success, despite the weather! – Robin Smith, Director of Long Island Program Operations, Concern for Independent Living

Concern was fortunate to be the beneficiary of our first on site COVID-19 vaccination HUB at our Bergen Street SP/ SRO in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Our front room quickly filled with tenants and staff eager to take a bold step toward personal and public protection from the ravages of a virus that has now killed half a million Americans.  Included in the room were young adults, individuals with complex medical needs and our seniors.  All anxious, yet humbled to receive their vaccine.  Despite a snowy afternoon, at the end of the session, 42 brave individuals had joined the ranks of millions of adults better protected and ready for a safer and healthier life. Concern is ever so grateful to Nate’s and Enexia Specialty Pharmacy for this opportunity and we thank DOHMH for the valuable connection. – Jim Mutton, Director of NYC Operations, Concern for Independent Living

Bonus: Read an Op-Ed from CUCS's Dr. Van Yu on vaccine access and equity in AMNY

On hesitancy:

Once Fortune learned we were going to host a vaccination site, we knew we had to reduce fear, distrust and hesitancy. We discussed with participants the benefits, the pros and the cons of getting the vaccine. Our goal was to provide clients with as much credible info as possible to help them make an informed decision. At a Thursday night community meeting in West Harlem, Dr. Janine Knudsen, The Medical Director of the Special Operations Team at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, provided important information about vaccine efficacy and how it works. This was very important because some of our folks were into online misinformation. Dr. Knudsen was able to provide thorough responses. She didn’t use medical jargon and spoke in a really approachable way. Then, at that same event, our participants witnessed staff members get vaccinated. They look to us as role models and credible messengers. – Angela Scott, The Fortune Society

We have found that residents feel much more comfortable with vaccination after seeing people in the building getting vaccinated, talking about it, and being fine afterwards. We had tenants sign photo releases when they were vaccinated and posted pictures of individuals receiving their shots around residences along with other promotional materials. It makes a big difference to see your neighbor get vaccinated. We had a database of people who wanted the vaccine, and we used that list to get people excited, gauge interest, and tell DOHMH how many people were interested. We also worked with nurse practitioner who hosted a Q&A session where people talked about their concerns and why they were hesitant via zoom. – Claire Hilger, WSFSSH

We have recognized that there is a delicate balance between "too much information" in our communication and perhaps not enough of an answer to specific vaccination concerns.  Rather than continuously bombarding everyone with daily blasts, we have targeted our engagement to providing culturally competent information that is peer-based and science-driven, while at the same time allowing our staff and tenants to address fears and concerns in a supportive non-judgmental environment.  We recognize that there are racial and social justice inequities that play a significant role in individual decision making in the process and these challenges should always be considered in any conversation about vaccination. – Jim Mutton, Concern for Independent Living

On organizing:

We collected names of who was interested so we had a “bench.” Residents, staff and home health aides filled out a survey where they said “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” regarding their interest in getting the vaccine, and gave reasons why if responding “no” or “maybe.” Social workers and staff then had conversations about the vaccine based on survey responses (click here to see a screenshot of the WSFSSH survey).
Our social workers did the lion’s share of the work in making the vaccine program happen for our residents and continue to do so. They spoke to each resident personally, and because they already knew the residents that helped a lot with trust level. They worked weekends, nights, got residents to fill out consent forms, show up for their appointments, etc. It has been an enormous lift for staff, but they have been very motivated to help their clients get vaccinated. We found it is less work for our staff to organize an onsite clinic than to send people offsite. All of the same information and paperwork is required, but staff do not have to deal with transportation and scheduling, and residents are much less likely to cancel. – Claire Hilger, WSFSSH

On bright spots:

Throughout their lives, our population has experienced sub-par medical care, so they were really hesitant. Those who participated in the vaccination event were so grateful and appreciative. We are hopeful that we are able to do it again - it builds community trust. – Angela Scott, The Fortune Society

It’s been so hopeful to work on vaccines. We have had residents and staff tear up when they get the vaccine. You can see relief wash over people after they get their shot.  The atmosphere at an onsite clinic is full of joy and hope. Organizing vaccinations has been the most rewarding thing I have done in my career. – Claire Hilger, WSFSSH

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