Published On: February 8, 202115.8 min read340 words

‘These New Yorkers Are Signing Up Their Neighbors for the Vaccine’


Reporting by James Estrin in The Bronx.

Brenda Ewell stood beside Tomas Ramos as she knocked on her neighbor’s door. “I’m so happy that you’re here,” Victoria Espiritusanto said, as they signed her up for a Covid vaccine. Last week, I spent time with Ewell, 77, as she helped sign up her other neighbors as well

Ewell told me she “had Covid but for the grace of God, I was only in the hospital for three days.” Now she’s volunteering with the Bronx Rising Initiative, which was founded by Ramos, and is trying to get older residents vaccinated through door-to-door outreach.

Older adults who live in public housing have faced hurdles getting vaccinated: They have struggled to make appointments online and phone lines have been jammed.
The program enlisted public housing residents to help sign up their peers for vaccination appointments. The effort is partnering with medical organizations to administer vaccines in the housing complex community centers.
Residents lined up inside the Bronx River Community Center for the vaccine. Public housing residents in the city are overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic, and live in areas hit hard by the pandemic, yet they have been vaccinated at lower rates than white New Yorkers.
Mari G. Millet, C.E.O. of Morris Heights Health Center, oversaw vaccinations at the Castle Hill houses. She told me the Bronx is the least healthy county in the state and residents have “high rates of diabetes, hypertension, asthma and obesity, which are underlying risk factors for covid.”

“This is so beautiful!” Edith Jackson, 78, told me. “Since March until now I’ve been staying in my home because I have a low immune system.”

“My daughter tried to sign us up for the vaccine on the computer,” Ramona Perez, 75, told me, “but everything was full. Then I got a call last week from the senior center. Now we can go out again.”

James Estrin/The New York Times own the rights to all copy and pictures in this article.


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