Retirement communities among first in line for vaccine

PHARR — When residents of Brook Ridge Retirement Community learned they were slated to be among the first communities to receive access to a COVID-19 vaccine in the Rio Grande Valley last week, they broke into applause.

After eight months of social distancing and lockdowns, news of vaccine distribution on the horizon was the light at the end of the tunnel for many of the community’s elderly residents, Community Development Director Vianey Garcia said.

“They are very excited. Residents are very excited, family members are excited that we will be hosting this vaccine clinic here for them,” she said. “That means that family visits may be able to resume again for them once it’s kind of all settled out there.”

Garcia says the vaccine will be made available free to the community’s residents through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens, and while she doesn’t know exactly when it will arrive, she expects it to be soon.

Sooner is better than later for most of the community’s residents, who have had to take pandemic precautions more seriously than most other populations and have been largely cut off from in-person visits with friends and family over the last nine months.

“They do miss that in-person visit — that personal touch,” Garcia said. “A lot of their family members are from out of state, so it would mean a lot to them to have them travel here, to see them, hug them.”

As the first weeks of the pandemic stretched into months Garcia says the community started implementing socially distanced events and exercise sessions on residents’ balconies, delivering food to residents who were self-isolated and teaching them how to connect with family via video chat.

“We had some that were very sad, they were in a state of depression because they were just in their room,” she said. “For them this is like hope, you know. They have hope that it will go back to normal with this vaccine.”

Most of the residents have indicated their willingness to be vaccinated, Garcia says, including 86-year-old Robert Snyder.

Snyder, an Air Force veteran, says he “absolutely” intends to get the vaccine and figures it’ll work the same as any flu shot.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

Unlike some residents, Snyder drives and has a car. He’s been able to go out to a degree and has weathered the pandemic better than many, although he is looking forward to being able to visit his family in Atlanta and Dallas when the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

“As I tell people, I have made my peace with the Lord years ago and I don’t think it’s time for me to go yet,” he said. “When this all settles down, I’ll go traveling again.”