JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Officials from the Jacksonville Housing Authority said Monday that state contractor Agape Family Health Center will hold vaccination clinics in two of its high-rise buildings this month.
The announcement came after JHA announced last week that the state had not planned vaccination clinics in the agency’s four senior housing complexes during its two-week effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable in low-income government buildings.
JHA rents to more than 700 seniors, many of whom cannot be transported and are too sick to travel.
Officials plan to vaccinate 500 people in high-level Centennial Towers from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on March 19. The next clinic will be at the Hogan Creek Towers on March 25th. Both seniors and people with disabilities are accommodated in the Hogan Creek Towers.
“Agape Family Health started offering COVID testing in our facilities last year,” said Dwayne Alexander, Interim CEO and President of JHA. “You have been a great partner and this vaccination program is the next step in helping our residents fight this pandemic.”
To enroll for the vaccine, eligible individuals should call JHA at 904-630-3843.
On Monday morning, Patricia Sheppard began shoving flyers under the doors of the senior citizens of Hogan Creek Towers and signing residents in the lobby on their clipboard.
Sheppard said some residents were picked up by members of the Church to take them to state and federal vaccination centers or used public transportation to get to vaccination clinics. She herself is fully vaccinated. Sheppard said the clinic will be good for residents on March 25 who are homely or struggling to get around town for a vaccine.
“We have about three or four people who don’t come out and have their doctors and nurses come in and attend to their needs,” Sheppard said.
To date, more than 2.9 million people aged 65 and over in Florida have received at least one COVID-19 shot. Lines outside of vaccination clinics are expected to grow longer as heads of state consider lowering the age requirements for a vaccine under 60.
Last week, Florida Emergency Management Department examined 145 facilities in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department 202, and vaccinated qualified individuals. Section 202 is the supportive housing for the elderly program. The state emergency management department announced that more than 9,000 seniors had been vaccinated in two weeks and should be completed March 12.
As part of the effort, state vaccination clinics were held in 10 HUD apartment complexes in Duval County, according to an FDEM spokesperson. The effort did not include JHA and the state has yet to respond on whether it plans to implement a similar plan with housing authorities across the state.
Otis Bess Jr., 71, is a Vietnam veteran and a resident of JHA Centennial Towers. Bess said his doctor had already planned to have him vaccinated through Veterans Affairs because of his age and diagnosis of cancer. But Bess said he is worried about his wife and others who live in Centennial Towers.
“A lot of the customers here also have no way to go, and then you have others, I think they’re just a little bit suspicious of the vaccine,” Bess said. “I both took pictures of Pfizer and maybe I can take care of my wife during the process because she is my healthcare provider.”
Marvin Levine is the service coordinator for low income independent housing units Towers of Jacksonville. Levine said he spent weeks calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health, Governor Ron DeSantis and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio to secure vaccination appointments for his most vulnerable tenants.
“Everyday residents call me and ask, ‘When do we get the shot?'” Levine said. “I have about 200 people living here, and half of them have already taken their pictures, but the other half couldn’t get out. They don’t have the money to get a cab, the support system, the family. Some people cannot leave their homes – some are too sick. “
After weeks of phone calls, Levine said, state contractors came to vaccinate Towers of Jacksonville residents. One of its residents, Donna Taylor, was given the Pfizer vaccine. For the first time in almost a year, she left her room.
“I’m grateful that they came here and vaccinated our people because the atmosphere is so much nicer and quieter here and you can feel the relief in their voice,” said Levine. “You know, we’ll be fine at last.”
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