Effort underway to vaccinate NYS homeless population

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The homeless population is among New York’s most vulnerable groups, when it comes to COVID-19. Local officials are working to make sure everyone that is eligible for the vaccine doesn’t get left behind.

People who are homeless are especially vulnerable to disease and often live in close quarters. Local officials say giving them the COVID-19 vaccine is crucial.

“The numbers are large in the Capital District. On any average night there are 1,500 men, women and children who are homeless,” said Kevin O’Connor, Executive Director of the Joseph’s House and Shelter in Troy.

O’Connor says when it comes to vaccinating the homeless there can be some challenges.

“Many of these folks sometimes don’t have the access to the information that a lot of us have. They are in very close contact with other people. So it makes sense for the safety of those individuals but also the general public,” said O’Connor.

For people facing homelessness, they can have the tendency of mistrusting the benefits of the vaccine. They can also be more immobile or focus on more immediate needs like finding food and warmth. O’Connor says his job is to educate them and make sure they have access to getting a shot.

“So what we have been doing is getting some blocks of appointments for the vaccine. We also joined the CDTA bus system. They have been donating buses to us and they drive our tenants from the building to the vaccine site,” said O’Connor.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says another hurdle to vaccinating the homeless is they can be hard to keep track of. He suggests using the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

“This is a homeless population that is transit. They might be in Albany today, Schenectady tomorrow, or they might be in Saratoga the next day. So if we can get the Johnson & Johnson one vaccine dose to them, then we don’t have to worry about trying to chase them down four weeks later,” said County Executive McCoy.

Albany County says it’s working on more opportunities to get this population vaccinated.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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