Pharmacist With Extra Vaccine Makes House Call To LGBTQ Seniors

Pharmacist vaccinating senior
Pharmacist vaccinating senior
(stock image via Depositphotos)

An independent pharmacist in Brooklyn came to the aid of LGBTQ seniors who were having difficulties trying to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Ambar Keluskar, a pharmacist who supervises Rossi Pharmacy in Brooklyn, found himself with hundreds of doses of vaccine he had “just sitting in the freezer.”

The state of New York allows pharmacies to dispense the vaccines, but with some limitations. Citing the lack of ability to verify the identity and occupation of some eligible candidates like essential workers, the state limits pharmacists to giving the vaccine to teachers, child care workers and people over the age of 60.

In January, Keluskar began making the shots available at his pharmacy. At first, he received 100 doses a week from the state, and then upped that to 200.

But by March, the number of eligible people signing up for vaccinations began to decline. Keluskar pointed to the opening of a mass vaccination site in the area for the lessening demand.

With state laws requiring him to notify the state if he hadn’t used all doses sent to him, Keluskar became worried state authorities would stop sending him doses.

So, he decided to look outside his pharmacy for eligible folks including taking to social media to make it known he had doses to spare.

Thanks to an aide in the office of State Senator Jabari Brisport, Kelsukar got in touch with Stonewall House, New York City’s first LGBTQ-only senior housing building in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.

It turns out most of the residents there, many homebound, had not been able to get their vaccination. With scheduling done primarily online, many seniors with limited income and/or poor internet access can find themselves left out of the process of signing up for vaccine appointments.

One resident, 78-year-old Emma DeJesus, told the New York Times, “I can’t handle the phone. Everything is on the computer now and I don’t have a computer.”

After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to schedule an appointment for a vaccine shot, DeJesus is now looking forward to receiving her second shot so she can visit her nieces in the Bronx.

Keluskar was able to deliver nearly 50 vaccinations in that first visit to Stonewall House. And since then, he’s had outreach from two city councilmen for additional pop-up visits.

This past Saturday, Keluskar vaccinated more than 150 more eligible candidates at Ingersoll Houses, a large public housing development in Fort Greene.

Keluskar told the New York Times he hopes restrictions on vaccine eligibility will be lifted soon, but until then, “we have to do everything can to stay in the program, and keep providing, keep vaccinating people.”

News Round-Up: June 2, 2020

The number of senior LGBTQs is expected to double in the next 10 years

Some news items you might have missed:

LGBTQ Nation: Experts say there are 2.4 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. and that number is projected to reach seven million by 2030. Check out this list of organizations that offer valuable resources for aging LGBTQ people.

Instinct: The British government has announced that strangers (or couples living apart from each other) are no longer legally allowed to have sex for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The text of the legislation outlaws indoor gatherings “when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other or to undertake any other activity with each other.”

Pink News: Levi’s has released a pair of denim chaps for Pride Month which are apparently “inspired by the resilience and beauty” of the LGBT+ community. The Pride offering is described as a “classic Levi’s silhouette, reimagined as a pair of unapologetically bold chaps.” #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm

(image via Levi’s)

The Advocate: The state of Minnesota has filed a human rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died last week while being pinned him to the ground by a white police officer. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights will begin an investigation into the MPD’s conduct over the past decade to determine if officers “engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.”

New York Times: The ongoing protests across the country have spurred political campaign donations to Democrats via their ActBlue website. Between Friday and Monday, the online donor platform processed over $60 million in donations.

NowThis News: Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop who oversees St. John’s Episcopalian Church in Washington DC, was outraged over the use of force on peaceful protesters and church clergy by Donald Trump. Bible in hand, Trump posed awkwardly for a photo and then walked away from the chaos, but many are calling this an abuse of power and a dangerous stifling of the 1st Amendment right to peaceful protest.

Health Officials Warn Of Specific Vulnerabilities Of LGBTQs To Coronavirus

An open letter signed by over 100 LGBTQ or LGBTQ supportive organizations asks media outlets and health care providers to be aware that LGBTQ people have particular vulnerabilities in regard to the coronavirus.

The list of original signers to the open letter include the National LGBT Cancer Network, LGBTQ seniors advocacy group SAGE, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality and Whitman-Walker Health.

“As the spread of the novel coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19 increases, many LGBTQ+ people are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect us and our communities,” begins the letter.

“The undersigned want to remind all parties handling COVID-19 surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage that LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus.”

The group points to three specific factors that can lead to increased vulnerability for LGBTQ people:

• The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.

• The LGBTQ+ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.

• LGBTQ+ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.

The letter also notes that there are more than 3 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. Studies have shown queer elders are less likely than heterosexual counterparts to reach out for aid from health and aging providers due to fear of discrimination.

In that COVID-19 has a much higher impact on people over 60, this dynamic becomes heightened during the current coronavirus threat.

The group encourages LGBTQ people to find welcoming health providers if they are experiencing symptoms like fever or coughing.

If you don’t have a medical provider you feel comfortable with, GLMA provides a directory for welcoming providers here.

Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign has a list of LGBTQ-friendly medical centers and hospitals here.

You can read the full letter at cancer-network.org/coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control lists several steps to help prevent coronavirus infection here.