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LYNN — A new round of vaccinations will be going out to Lynn seniors next week, in the Commonwealth’s drive to get elderly people protected against COVID-19.
The new drive will be conducted by Element Care PACE, a Lynn-based elderly care organization that provides care to seniors who live independently, and will be focused on seniors that are in Element’s care.
“Our goal is to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible and as safely as possible, and to not waste any of it,” said Dr. Joanna Duby, the medical director at Element Care PACE.
The organization registered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and received its first doses from the state this past Tuesday.
Element has already vaccinated its staff and will begin vaccinating hundreds of seniors at two clinics in Lynn next week.
Duby has found a strong interest in vaccinations among the population she works with.
“The seniors are the ones who want it more than a lot of younger people, because they’re the ones who have seen the devastating effects of the virus on them and their friends,” said Duby, who reported that approximately 180 of the 1,000 patients Element Care PACE works with had contracted the virus, and more than 50 patients had died.
“It’s been devastating. In addition to the risk of getting the virus, the social isolation has been awful,” she said. “They can’t eat with their friends, they can’t see their families, and it’s taken a huge toll on their mental health and their physical health.”
Duby said the process of getting the vaccinations set up was difficult, and that she wished seniors could have had access to the vaccines sooner.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Duby. “It’s hard to know when you’re getting a vaccine, how much you’re going to get, when you’re going to get it. We hoped that the rollout for seniors would be sooner, especially for places that have been hit hard like Lynn.”
As of February 1, residents 75 and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as the state opened the second phase of its vaccine distribution plan. However, that rollout has been blasted by state representatives and elderly organizations for being overly complex.
People 75 or older are asked to apply for a vaccination appointment through the state website, www.mass.gov. Duby reported that her organization was uniquely equipped to assist its seniors with navigating this process since its staff have close relationships with the individuals they care for and can provide them with vaccination information directly.
For other Lynn seniors, the process of getting registered has been more difficult.
Rosemie Leyre, 78, a Lynn resident, encountered several issues with the website when she tried to apply for a vaccination this week.
She found out about the vaccination process opening to seniors 75 and older from a neighbor, and went to the state website to apply. She entered her location and her zip code, as was requested by the site, she said.“It said this zip code does not exist,” she said. “Then I got a message that said ‘try again in 24 to 36 hours.’ And I had a few friends who had had the same experience.”
Eventually, she was able to apply through the “Patient Gateway” portal from Massachusetts General Hospital and scheduled an appointment for Wednesday evening at a Lynn site.
Leyre said her friends were very interested in getting the vaccine as soon as possible.
“The people I know are all very positive towards the vaccine,” she said.
Of the group of people she knows, she said only one of them was skeptical of the vaccination.
A Belgium native, Leyre hopes that once the virus subsides she will be able to visit her daughter, who still resides in her home country.
“I can’t believe how long it has been since I traveled,” she said.