Retirement Communities: Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine

Juniper Village at Brookline has been testing its residents and associates for COVID-19 since the beginning of April.


Juniper Village at Brookline has been testing its residents and associates for COVID-19 since the beginning of April.

Cora Bainbridge, Sports Manager

COVID-19 has been ravishing the world for a year now, and with numbers spiking across the nation, a vaccine is drastically needed. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been in the works for many months now, and with the FDA approval for Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccine will be distributed to hospitals and retirement communities in the coming months. 

At least six retirement communities in Centre County are ready for the vaccine and are currently making sure that their residents are safe. Juniper Village, a retirement community in State College, has been working closely with CVS in preparation for the administration of the vaccine. Retirement communities will be one of the first places in the country to receive the vaccine, along with hospitals around the nation. Juniper has been working very hard to keep COVID out of their buildings throughout State College. 

“We started testing associates 1x a week starting in April. We have now moved to testing 2x a week in November.” Liz Polzner-Chalfa, Executive Director at Juniper Village for Senior Village said. “We also test new residents before they move in, day of move-in, and 72 hours after move-in.”

Since COVID cases began to spike in Pennsylvania, retirement communities have been working double-time to keep up with the new rules and regulations from the Department of Health. Depending on the status of Pennsylvania (red, yellow, or green), the building begins to test the employees more than once during the week. Rapid testing is now available for members of the community, whenever the person may be showing symptoms of the disease.

Pfizer has been one of the leaders in creating, and getting the vaccine out to the public as fast as scientifically possible. They have been in a race with BioNTech for the first vaccine to be given to the world, but Moderna has been raising in the choices with this company catching up with Pfizer.

This pandemic has also put a toll on the residents of these communities, including no communal eating or community-wide events, and family visits being turned into Zoom meetings.

“Getting the vaccine will hopefully allow our residents to live in a less restrictive environment, meaning communal dining could resume and group events and gatherings inside the community,” said Jill McKenrick, Director of Connections of Juniper Village at Brookline.

Humans need other humans to live well, and connecting with loved ones is just as important. That has been especially hard when one of the ways to keep COVID-19 from spreading is to stay apart from people. This incoming vaccine will allow for these residents to start interacting with their fellow residents again.

“Our residents and associates will both be getting the vaccine, when able,” Chalfa said.

When the people of these communities all have the vaccine, the life in these communities will go somewhat back to normal with communal meals, and events. This will not change all of the protocols in place in these communities, as families will still need to abide by the community’s protocols and meet with residents over Zoom. 

When the vaccine is made available, getting it will require more steps than a usual vaccination.

“The anticipated arrival date is between December 21st-27th, and we will receive two dosages 21 days apart,” Chalfa said.

This vaccine will be given to the people in these communities in the coming weeks. This vaccine is similar to the booster vaccines that are given to people regularly by their doctor. Similar to these boosters, recipients of the vaccine will need a double or triple dose. The COVID double dose will be administered three weeks after the first dose, hopefully giving the recipients a better chance of fighting this disease. The date for getting the vaccine is getting closer and the anticipation is rising in the communities. 

“I am eager to get the vaccine!” McKenrick said. Alongside McKenrick, Chalfa is also eager for the vaccine.

“I am excited! I will be first in line to get the vaccine!” Chalfa exclaimed.

This pandemic has shined a light on these retirement communities and their ability to face a disease that could possibly make the residents of these communities fatally ill. The vaccine coming in the next couple of weeks will improve the lifestyle of the workers and residents, and will hopefully give the people of the community a chance to take a much-needed breather that they deserve.