The early stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout have not been without its challenges. Short supplies of vaccine, coupled with difficulties in booking appointments, have created obstacles for many older adults. In addition, for older, frail adults who do not drive themselves, simply getting to the appointment once it is scheduled can be a hurdle.
Many older adults who live at home and do not have a strong support network, rely on the kindness of others to help them get around in the world. NV Rides coordinates a network of community-based organizations throughout Northern Virginia to assist with these needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our drivers have continued to help their clients get to important medical appointments and access food.
Now, the drivers are again stepping up to help their riders get to their vaccine appointments.
“Our partners typically require at least a five –day lead time to schedule a ride with a volunteer driver, but the nature of how vaccine appointments are being scheduled has required them to be a bit more flexible,” said Jennifer Kanarek, manager of NV Rides. “We have identified volunteers who have agreed to be “on call” for last minute vaccine appointment requests. We know that the process can be overwhelming for many seniors and we are trying to be as accommodating as possible so that our most vulnerable community members can get vaccinated.”
Additionally, many program administrators have helped their clients navigate booking an appointment. Dave Prescott, of Mt. Vernon at Home, helped two of his clients who did not have internet access.
“When they called in to register, they used my email address, so the vaccination invitations came to me. With each of them on the phone with me, they chose a date and time and I filled out the information on the Fairfax link. I printed their appointment confirmations and delivered them to their homes,” said Dave.
Fairfax County has also recognized that transportation can be a challenge for many older adults in our community. They have setup a hotline for residents to call if they need support. People can call the COVID hotline at 703-324-7404 from 8am-4:30pm Monday-Friday. They will get connected to a representative from Human Services Transportation who will help them navigate their options to ensure that they can access safe transportation to the vaccination site.
Since 2015, NV Rides has partnered with Fairfax County to support the transportation needs of older adults in the community. The network is comprised of independent nonprofit organizations, including Shepherd’s Centers, Villages and faith-based organizations. During the pandemic the network partners have been able to work together to share resources and best practices.
“ We have identified volunteers who have agreed to be “on call” for last minute vaccine appointment requests. We know that the process can be overwhelming for many seniors and we are trying to be as accommodating as possible so that our most vulnerable community members can get vaccinated.”