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Anger and anxiety on Long Island over the lack of vaccines

Credit: Getty Images/Vectorios2016

The outpouring of calls and messages to Newsday’s editorial board describing the frustrations of older Long Islanders in obtaining the vaccine cannot be fully captured in this sampling of stories. The voices of these Long Islanders, however, vividly describe the overlooked challenges for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Understanding their needs is essential to putting together plans that ensure everyone has access to a vaccine.

‘Please, please call me’

"[I live] independently in my own home. I have three children, 68, 70, 72 in Marietta, Georgia, have already had their vaccinations. Nothing wrong with them. And another one in Florida already had the vaccination. Nothing wrong with her. And they are all ... I am just so upset. I’m sorry. I have tried everything. I’ve enrolled myself via the e-mail. I have heard nothing back. The only places I know that are available to me are Potsdam and Plattsburgh, New York, which are certainly not available for me. I live in Bay Shore, Long Island ... I have tried repeatedly. It took me days and days and days on the computer to even get enrolled. I think I’m enrolled. I’m sure I’m enrolled. I don’t know if I’m enrolled. And I would like to have the vaccination. Please, please call me ... And I am a World War II Marine Corps veteran also. I forgot that, I think. Thank you. ... Please, please call me."

—Muriel Gunthorpe, 96, Bay Shore

‘I’m going to go out of my mind soon’

"My name is Rosemary Mauro. That’s M-A-U-R-O ... I live in Ridge. I’m 82 years old. I have a car that’s 2008. I look at these places and I think to myself, ‘Well, maybe I can drive to Jones Beach.’ But I never got my car inspected in May because I haven’t been out of the house. I have my medicine delivered. I have my groceries delivered ... I’m furious when the governor has stopped the over 70 and made it 65. Am I ever going to get out of this house? I’m taking care of a handicapped daughter. I am going to go out of my mind soon. Please do something. Thank you."

— Rosemary Mauro, 82, Ridge

‘I’m 80 years old, and this is a real shame’

"My name is Robert Brenner ... I live in Nesconset, Long Island. I have been canceled three times at Stony Brook for a vaccination. And as soon as they OK us, that night we’re canceled. I think it should be their responsibility to reschedule us and not us have to fend for ourselves. I’m 80 years old, and this is a real shame. They botched up the whole thing. We’re the only two people, it seems, who can’t get a vaccination. And we’re dying to get it. And I hope when I mean dying, not dying. If you want to talk to me, I’ll be glad to talk to you but three times we were canceled out of our slot. And I think when I get a vaccine, they should put me back in a slot. But apparently they don’t. Thank you for your time."

— Robert Brenner, 80, Nesconset

‘There’s no way I can stand on these big sites’

"I live in Holtsville, in a gated community. I am 89 years old. I have difficulties walking. There is no way I can stand on these big sites for an hour, either in my car or just standing on line. I have tried several sites to try and at least get on a wait list. Some of them, well, one in particular, was not even taking names for a wait list. I am hoping that my local Stop & Shop, which is very convenient for me, will get their vaccine soon. I think it’s probably the only one I can deal with at this time. And it’s just so frustrating. Sometimes you can’t even get through on some of these sites that people recommend you try. One time, I finally got on a site. And I could hardly understand the woman. She spoke with a very decided accent very quickly like she couldn’t wait to get off the phone and I had no idea what she was saying. It is just so frustrating. My stomach is constantly in turmoil from this frustration. And I hope that I can get vaccinated shortly ... Thank you for listening. Bye, bye."

— Rosita Tuller, 89, Holtsville

‘It’s like these people, all the people who built Long Island, are being just tossed to the wayside’

"I’m calling in reference to my mom, Gloria Walsh. She’s a 96-year-old woman. Very small and frail. Lives in Massapequa Park. I’m her caregiver, although I share that responsibility with two sisters. I’ve been trying to get her a vaccination. She’s pretty much homebound at this time. And I’ve contacted the state. I’ve contacted Nassau County Department of Health. I’ve contacted Town of Oyster Bay, to no avail. It does not seem like anyone has anything in place for people in her category, older that are limited to being in house who have no internet. And it’s very frustrating. One of the things that I had thought about is, instead of making vaccine available for people 65 and over, which is a great thing, I think it would be beneficial to our older people, if they could do like a two-day enrollment for people 90 years of age and up. And then two-day enrollment for 80-year-olds and up and so forth. This way, it would give older people and their caregivers a little bit more of a chance of being able to provide a vaccine for their loved ones. Right now. It’s ... it’s daunting, it’s time consuming. And if you are taking care of an older person, you really don’t have that much time to dedicate to making phone calls and trying to negotiate this system. It’s very frustrating. Like I said, my mother will be 96 on Feb. 5. Nassau County resident, Massapequa Park. Was an original owner ... She’s lived here for 60-something years. And it’s just frustrating. It’s like these people, all the people who built Long Island, are being just tossed to the wayside. And it’s disgusting. It’s no way to treat our elderly. Again, my name is Pat Walsh. My mother is Gloria ... Any help or assistance that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you."

— Pat Walsh, Massapequa Park

"The recipients of the vaccine should have reflected a better cross section ..."

"Good morning. I am 65 years old and African American. I had the vaccine administered last Saturday at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury. The process was quick, no long lines and the staff were courteous and efficient. The surrounding community of the center is substantially African American and Hispanic. However, I observed very few people of color being vaccinated. In the 40 minutes that I was at the center, I observed three African American men. Not many more African American women. I did not observe any Hispanics. Overwhelmingly, the recipients of the vaccine were members of fire departments. The recipients of the vaccine should have reflected a better cross section of the community. Upon leaving Westbury, I spoke to a friend that is an officer of a VFW on Long Island. He was accompanied by eight to 10 members of the lodge. All of these men were African American and well beyond 65 years old. No one had taken the vaccine. Most of them did not have information on sites or know how to sign up. There needs to be a better way to ensure that those most vulnerable to this virus are provided information about the COVID-19 vaccination."

— J. Stewart Moore, 65, Wheatley Heights

‘We have tried many different ways’

"We are an elderly couple living in Wantagh who have been unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. It is not that we haven’t tried. I have been on the computer and telephone — our son has also tried to help us. We have had no good results. My husband is 81 years old with multiple health problems including heart, lungs, diabetes. He is a cancer survivor. We have been married for almost 55 years. ... We have tried many different ways — including asking our doctors and everyone we know ... So we sit here patiently waiting — hoping we will be able to receive the vaccine before it is too late for us."

— Selma Stern, Wantagh

‘... This scheduling experience is exhausting’

"I have, at age 90, had a very disappointing experience in trying to get an appointment. My contacts with NYU Langone have not been successful. Several messages that I sent to them were responded to courteously, but resulted in no appointment. For instance, the last message I got, it said, ‘Good morning, there’s very limited supply and we have not received a current supply ... All hospital organizations are struggling as demand is much greater than supply. Once we get a shipment, you will be contacted.’ To date, no contact has been made ... Absolutely frustrated with [the] appointment system and unfair to seniors. Although I have faced adversity as a United States Marine Corps veteran of the Korean conflict, and took care of my wife, who died of Alzheimer’s, this scheduling experience is exhausting. Will [the] pandemic take me out first? The responses have been courteous, but nothing, nothing has gotten me an appointment ... "

— Richard Brzozowski, 90, Floral Park

‘The last time I went on the ... state site’

"... I’m a young 75, in good health. I’m not able, technologically, to get an appointment for a shot. ..Before the pandemic, I was an active member of the cultural events committee of the Village of Farmingdale, and I’ve lived here 61 years. So I’m concerned about the fact that people like me who do not drive, and seniors who do not have tech savvy, and may not have a smartphone or an iPad, or a computer, and may live alone, as I do, are really having a hard time getting this shot. Although I’ve kept myself very healthy during this ... I’m concerned about not being able to get the shot. I don’t have anybody to pull any strings for me. The last time I went on the ... state site, Potsdam and Plattsburgh were the only things that had openings."

— Lorraine Stanton, 75, Farmingdale

‘I’ve exhausted myself, my family’

"... I am 80 years old and I recently lost my husband, age 81, to the virus. And I have had a full-time job trying to get an appointment to get the vaccine. I’ve exhausted myself, my family. There is absolutely no option that I have not explored. I am wondering why our Diocese of Rockville Centre cannot get involved in this and help us out. We are there, truly trying to do the best we can. Thank you so much for your help. And please see whatever you can do to help us out. Thank you so much. Bye."

— Angela Jean Mendola, 80, Lynbrook

‘I have tried everything I can try’

"... Ever since we were told that we will be getting a vaccination, we were grateful and happy and dancing around like a bunch of idiots. I have tried everything I can try to try to gain an appointment somewhere. I’ve been on Stony Brook 1,000 times. I was at the Gardens in Great River, that didn’t work. Nothing works. You could call in the middle of the night, you can call in the morning, you can call whenever you call. Nobody has an opening or a time. Nobody knows when they will be getting vaccines. This is so sad. I happen to be 80 years old. And I care less about me than I care for my husband. My husband has dementia. I care for him all day long. All I want to do is be able to take him for a walk and get him out. It’s a little difficult. Not only that, but I have a next-door neighbor, I promised if I get an appointment, I would take her with me. She’s 90-some-odd years old. And all she wants to do is get out of the house, too ... I think the pharmacies and the doctor’s office should be the first ones to get out the vaccine. Most people cannot stand. I know the people that I’m with cannot stand, and I certainly cannot stand and wait."

— Caroline Saltzman, 80, Smithtown