WNYIL's campaign to encourage seniors, people with disabilities to take advantage of COVID vaccinations

Independent Perspective 1735 with guest Mike Benzin on WNYIL's campaign to encourage seniors and people with disabilities to take advantage of COVID vaccinations.

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Mike Benzin, Chief Community Development Officer of WNYIL, and I’m your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Mike.

Guest:  Thank you Ernie.

Host:  It’s our pleasure. You’re with us because you have the lowdown on an exciting new effort that the WNYIL family of agencies are involved in which is helping more people such as elderly and individuals with disabilities, both our target populations, to see what they can do about getting COVID-19 vaccinations. What can you tell us about what's going to happen?

Guest:  Well, that's exactly it. There's concern in the community that people who have a disability and seniors, with the rate of vaccinations isn't as high as it could be. Folks are still concerned about side effects. They're concerned about other things. Some of its logistics, they can't get to a vaccination site or they've got other issues. And we just want to encourage everybody regardless of their disability, regardless of their background to get vaccinated and if they've already been vaccinated to make sure they get the latest boost. Not that it's going to completely safeguard everybody from getting COVID, but it does do a good job at minimizing the impact that COVID would have if you do catch it. And it also does a good job at making COVID go by a little bit faster if you do catch it. So we've got a campaign that we've been running, it'll be on TV, radio, it'll be in print, it's on billboards, and it's throughout Western New York, to try to encourage people to get vaccinated, to get boosted and if they need help. We've got a hotline that folks can call, and they will get help. You know, whatever their questions are, well, we'll help them do it and that that number is 716-582-0509. And we can repeat that later if you want. And we're doing this campaign in multiple languages, because we recognize not everybody speaks English as their primary language. So, we're doing it in Arabic, we're doing it in Spanish and Burmese and Russian, in addition to English, recognizing that those are our growing populations, and we want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to get the vaccine.

Host:  Boy, that really is a multi-prong outreach to people, and it sounds very impressive. How long has it been going on?

Guest:  We started this campaign maybe a month ago, and it'll go on for at least a few more months. We're also we're promoting websites that folks can go to if they if they're listening to it in their car and they hear the radio. They can go to a website to get the phone number. They don't have to try to write it down. So, we've got that set up in those same languages.

Host:  By any chance, do we have any partners in the government or health spheres that are working with this on this?

Guest:  We're doing it on a contract with the government. I think it's with the New York State Department of Health and maybe a couple other departments just to outreach on their behalf.

Host:  And I imagine some people listening have probably heard in newscasts that there is consideration of making COVID-19 vaccines similar to those of influenza where instead of having two initial shots and then boosters, that perhaps that will change to once per year with the mix of ingredients being reflective of the most current variant. Can you tell us anything about that?

Guest:  I think that's breaking news, so I think I know the same thing that you know, but I do think it's an indication that COVID isn't going to go away that fast. That is something that they will have to kind of get comfortable with living with

Host:  I think that it’s reached endemic status.

Guest:  Yes. And from what I understand from that story that you just referred to, I think they're even talking about mixing or intermingling the COVID vaccine with the flu vaccine. So many people are already into their routine every year getting the flu vaccine. They can get both at the same time.

Host:  Believe it or not, we're running short on time. I'm sure people will have questions, what would be the best number to call.

Guest:  Again, that number is 716-582-0509.

Host:  Thanks so much for being with us Mike.

Guest:  Anytime Ernie.

Host:  You’ve been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Mike Benzin, Chief Community Engagement Officer with WNYIL, and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.