Therese Khoury, a resident of Bethany Villa senior housing apartments in Troy, gets her COVID-19 vaccine by Julie Traicott, a nurse for the Oakland County Health Division. Bethany Villa hosted a small vaccine clinic for its residents last week.

Therese Khoury, a resident of Bethany Villa senior housing apartments in Troy, gets her COVID-19 vaccine by Julie Traicott, a nurse for the Oakland County Health Division. Bethany Villa hosted a small vaccine clinic for its residents last week.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland County launches smaller vaccine clinics for select communities

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published April 20, 2021

 Bethany Villa senior living apartments in Troy hosted a vaccine clinic for its residents April 15. The complex’s Service Coordinator Anne Pio helps residents during the event, translating for those unable to speak English.

Bethany Villa senior living apartments in Troy hosted a vaccine clinic for its residents April 15. The complex’s Service Coordinator Anne Pio helps residents during the event, translating for those unable to speak English.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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OAKLAND COUNTY— Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is easy.

Easy for fluent English speakers who are technology literate and have consistent access to the internet so they can sign up for various vaccination opportunities and then keep checking back for appointment availability. Oh, and then they have to line up transportation to and from the clinic site — twice.

Nothing to it, right?

For older residents or those who speak English as a second language, securing a slot to get the shot can be quite the ordeal.

Now that the vaccine rollout is moving a little more quickly and the state is doling out more doses, the Oakland County Health and Human Services Division said it’s looking to partner with different organizations to host smaller clinics that are more accessible to various communities in need.

Dr. Chadi Zara was one of the first to sign up his organization, Rahma Worldwide Aid and Development, to host a vaccine clinic April 8. The Beverly Hills-based nonprofit serves refugees from Syria settling in metro Detroit. Zara, the organization’s president and CEO, said he was one of 200 patients to get a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that day.

“We want to pay back the community that is doing so much to help us address the issues facing Syrian refugees,” Zara said in a prepared statement. “We want to show them that we appreciate everything they have done — every donor, every supporter, everyone who cares about humanity — we want to show them some appreciation.”

As of April 9, the county has reportedly vaccinated 70% of its senior population with at least one dose. About 40% of all Oakland County adults — more than a million of them — have received at least one dose.

Smaller clinics should help reach the rest of residents by acting as a complement to the county’s larger vaccination sites in Southfield, Novi and Pontiac, as well as drive-thru sites in Rochester and West Bloomfield.

“Making sure we touch every population in the county is so, so important,” said Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter during a visit to the Rahma vaccination site. “The sooner we get as many people as possible vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some sense of normalcy and enjoy all the things we’ve missed in the last year.”

Just a few days after Rahma’s event, the county provided vaccines for a clinic at Bethany Villa, a senior living apartment complex in Troy.

“Right when we heard the vaccine was coming out, we knew we wanted to provide a building, a location, a structure within our communities so residents could get to it easily,” said Amy DeWeerd, the compliance director for Paragon Management Inc., which operates Bethany Villa.

DeWeerd said the Troy complex is home to not just retirees, but residents of Middle Eastern origin with limited English skills.

“People have to use the internet and use these different technologies to potentially schedule a vaccine appointment. These residents are over 62 years old, and with a language barrier, as well, that’s a double whammy,” she explained. “Some residents don’t drive either or don’t have a car, so we’re ecstatic we could do this so residents can walk just a short way to our community center and access the vaccine.”

Bethany Villa isn’t mandating that residents receive the vaccine; DeWeerd said management just wanted to remove some of the barriers that could prevent them from getting shots if they were interested.

It appears the interest was there: More than 50 residents signed up within four days. The event was one of six smaller vaccination clinics the county hosted that week.

“I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, but that tunnel is still dangerous, especially with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” Coulter said. “We still need to stay on guard and do everything possible, including masking up, continuing to social distance and get vaccinated.”

To find a vaccine site near you, visit oakgov.com/COVID.

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