Tamar Cruz rolled up her sleeve and breathed a sigh of relief. Her COVID-19 vaccine was a long time coming.
“I knew I wanted to get vaccinated,” said Tamar, who lives in AHRC New York City’s Queens Apartments. “My father passed of COVID on Mother’s Day and then my uncle passed from the virus. I didn’t get a chance to see my loved ones.”
Tamar was one of the dozens of AHRC NYC residents and staff members who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, beginning the week of January 11. After the first four days of sessions, 860 people received a vaccine, including 359 people supported in our certified residential programs and 501 staff. By the end of the fifth day on Tuesday, January 19th over 1000 shots had been administered. Nearly 70 percent of AHRC NYC’s residents were vaccinated in this first round.
“Couldn’t Wait to Get Vaccinated”
When COVID-19 began spreading in New York City in March 2020, AHRC NYC residents and staff members were left especially vulnerable due to the congregate care settings that allow for easier viral transmission. Getting the vaccine allowed Rosie Warrington, a Direct Support Professional at Pembrooke residence in Howard Beach, to reflect on her ordeal with the disease.
“I couldn’t wait to get vaccinated,” Rosie said. In March, she developed a severe case of COVID-19, with chills, extremely high fever, and body aches like she never felt before. Not wanting to go to a hospital, Rosie stayed home, where she lives alone. She took Tylenol and drank lots of water at the advice of a doctor. “COVID invaded my body,” Warrington said. “It took months to get back to feeling like me. I feel COVID is still there with weakness, brain fog, and dizziness sometimes.
“I can’t wait for the second dose,” Rosie added. “My advice to others is to go for the vaccine. Don’t be afraid. Just go for it.”
Pembrooke resident Paul Anthony Urbanek, only 20 years old, said he wanted to set an example by getting the vaccine. “I want to do my part in helping stop the spread of the virus, so we can go back to normal sooner rather than later,” he said. “Getting the vaccine is doing my part for humanity.”
The shot didn’t hurt, Paul added, and he didn’t feel any side effects. “I hopefully won’t get the virus or infect anyone I care about, like the staff at AHRC NYC, the people in my school, my teachers, peers or relatives.”
Trusting the Science
Leslie Flores’ husband, an NYPD officer, and his two parents all received positive tests for COVID-19 in 2020. All of them made full recoveries, thankfully, but Leslie, a Teacher at AHRC NYC’s Middle High School in Brooklyn, still had some skepticism about getting vaccinated. After doing research on the CDC website and consulting with her siblings, she said she was grateful to have to opportunity to get the first dose through AHRC NYC, “without having to wait in line.”
Leslie joined other staff members and people supported throughout Brooklyn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “I thought the thing to do was get vaccinated as a step toward normalcy and protecting myself, my family, my students, and colleagues,” she said. “You have to trust the science.”
AHRC NYC’s vaccination efforts will continue over the coming weeks and months as we seek to ensure the safety and health of all people with I/DD and the staff members who support them.