Op-ed: Make Vaccination of Seniors A Priority

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Rev. Kevin Slayton, senior pastor of Lanham UMC. (Courtesy Photo)

By Rev. Kevin Slayton

In a recent conversation with one of our communities most committed voices on the behalf of Senior Citizens my heart was disturbed and equally conflicted. Sarah Matthews a true “senior warrior” is no stranger to the advocacy community. Her depiction of local and state leadership response to ensuring that her friends and neighbors was unsettling. Many of her friends are our loved ones and they too are seniors unable to receive a vaccination to the deadly Covid-19 disease. Where was the urgency?

The Center for Disease and Control has provided information that showed analysis of data confirming that literally 8 in 10 people who die from the virus were over the age of 65 years old. While this statistic may vary state by state we should be no less aggressive in our outreach. The fear that our seniors must live with as they watch their friends and neighbors succumb while watching so many healthier citizens obtain the vaccination is simply unacceptable. No one should argue the need for a more urgent response to begin the immediate dispensing of the vaccine in targeted communities where our most vulnerable seniors reside. We continue to see nurses and physician’s standing with elected officials and in many cases providing them with an actual vaccination shot. We’ve witnessed mobile locations set up for vaccination and shared them over social media platforms. Yet, for some reason I am in total disbelief that with the number of deaths impacting our seniors that we have not come up with a detailed approach to deploying these resources directly to where they reside.

I first met Ms. Matthews as she was an outfront and very vocal voice for senior citizens during the local elections. She had a certain passion about making sure that candidates knew the value of their votes. She also was equally demanding when she felt that they were being taken for granted. The consistent number of deaths due to the virus she believes is sending a message. Although it’s a deadly one, it’s still a message all the same. And one that wreaks of utter disrespect. Mahatma Ghandi, a man of peace and compassion once said, “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” He could not have been more right. What does it say about us as a society when we leave our weakest, yet most precious neighbors as a second thought.

Seniors live in senior centers, senior living facilities, assisted living facilities and retirement homes. They are not hard to find. The fact is that many of them are not computer savvy and a great number of them who do have access to technology are not knowledgeable enough to navigate. So why aren’t we directing our mobile and satellite vaccination units to these locations? Why are these opportunities for our seniors in their places of residence not a priority? Providing such easy access would allow residents and nearby seniors to easily come forward for a shot. Having mobile locations outside and near senior buildings would ensure that these residents did not have to navigate the changing weather conditions presented by weather months. It would also provide some form of reassurance not just to the residents, but also the relatives and friends who care for them and want to see them enjoy a quality of life deserving of respect and protection. This is an opportunity to get it right. It doesn’t take a lot of talk or discussion. What it requires is the political will and courage to go where you’ve gone before. I’m sure that our elected officials know where these places are because during each election cycle they target them for their vote. And if anyone knows this it would be Ms. Matthews, she knows where the senior votes are, but regrettably she knows where the hurt of losing friends lies these days. She and I both agree that now would be a good time to target these facilities and communities or maybe they won’t be there when you need them to give you a shot at the ballot.

Rev Kev

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