Many At Stonewall House Hadn’t Been Able To Get Their Shot

Photo of senior woman being vaccinated
(stock image via Depositphotos)

An independent pharmacist in Brooklyn came to the aid of LGBTQ seniors who were having difficulties trying to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Ambar Keluskar, a pharmacist who supervises Rossi Pharmacy in Brooklyn, found himself with hundreds of doses of vaccine he had “just sitting in the freezer.”

The state of New York allows pharmacies to dispense the vaccines, but with some limitations. Citing the lack of ability to verify the identity and occupation of some eligible candidates like essential workers, the state limits pharmacists to giving the vaccine to teachers, child care workers and people over the age of 60.

In January, Keluskar began making the shots available at his pharmacy. At first, he received 100 doses a week from the state, and then upped that to 200.

But by March, the number of eligible people signing up for vaccinations began to decline. Keluskar pointed to the opening of a mass vaccination site in the area for the lessening demand.

With state laws requiring him to notify the state if he hadn’t used all doses sent to him, Keluskar became worried state authorities would stop sending him doses.

So, he decided to look outside his pharmacy for eligible folks including taking to social media to make it known he had doses to spare.

Thanks to an aide in the office of State Senator Jabari Brisport, Kelsukar got in touch with Stonewall House, New York City’s first LGBTQ-only senior housing building in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.

It turns out most of the residents there, many homebound, had not been able to get their vaccination. With scheduling done primarily online, many seniors with limited income and/or poor internet access can find themselves left out of the process of signing up for vaccine appointments.

One resident, 78-year-old Emma DeJesus, told the New York Times, “I can’t handle the phone. Everything is on the computer now and I don’t have a computer.”

After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to schedule an appointment for a vaccine shot, DeJesus is now looking forward to receiving her second shot so she can visit her nieces in the Bronx.

Keluskar was able to deliver nearly 50 vaccinations in that first visit to Stonewall House. And since then, he’s had outreach from two city councilmen for additional pop-up visits.

This past Saturday, Keluskar vaccinated more than 150 more eligible candidates at Ingersoll Houses, a large public housing development in Fort Greene.

Keluskar told the New York Times he hopes restrictions on vaccine eligibility will be lifted soon, but until then, “we have to do everything can to stay in the program, and keep providing, keep vaccinating people.”

(source: New York Times)

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