Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley (MOWGLV) knows that senior citizens across the Valley are being left out of obtaining their COVID-19 vaccinations. A Morning Call newspaper article details the difficulty that seniors face in getting scheduled for a vaccine if they do not have access to technology. The barriers to technology compound the difficulty signing up for the vaccine. Many MOWGLV clients have no Wi-Fi, no “screens” (tablet, smart phone, laptop, etc), and little to no understanding of how to navigate the internet. Some clients may have family members who can register them for appointment portals and help them get there; others do not.
Even non-internet processes to sign up can cause technology issues for our clients. Phone numbers for all the vaccination registration lines are advertised via websites so even if the client can make a phone call, he or she may not be able to find the phone number.
We could vaccinate all MOWGLV clients in no time if someone with a container of vaccines took a meal route or followed our volunteers. With a little push from MOWGLV CEO, Vicki Coyle, this simple concept soon got some wings…or wheels rather. The at-risk and homebound clients of MOWGLV now have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Through a partnership with the Allentown and Bethlehem Health Bureaus, MOWGLV staff is calling over 700 clients living in Center City Allentown, Northampton County and Bethlehem City (Lehigh County) asking if they would be interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. MOWGLV is connecting those clients who wish to receive the vaccine with the Allentown or Bethlehem Health Bureau. The Health Bureau staff will then contact clients directly to schedule their in-home vaccine appointment.
The Allentown Health Bureau (AHB), working with the Allentown EMS, will provide vaccinations to those MOWGLV clients living in Allentown. The Director of the AHB, Vicky Kistler states, “It is a partnership that is allowing us to get more vaccines into arms. This is a true example of where a partner stepped up and said ‘I work with seniors, I can help. How can we make this happen?’ That doesn’t happen very often.”
Bethlehem Health Bureau’s (BHB), Sherri Penchishen, Director of Injury & Disease Prevention, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Health Education Programs is also very excited to work with MOWGLV on this project. The BHB will work with Cedar Crest College nursing students to vaccinate Northampton County clients as well as those Bethlehem clients who live in Lehigh County. Both city health departments have already provided vaccinations to MOWGLV clients living in senior apartment buildings.
MOWGLV’s CEO, Vicki Coyle states, “I am beyond thrilled that our local health departments have joined the effort to keep our clients safe by vaccinating them in their homes. This project demonstrates how much great work can get done with some creative thinking, cooperation, and volunteer strength”.