For Seniors Who Can't Drive to COVID Vaccine Appointments, NH City Worker Offers a Lift

Portsmouth city worker Brinn Sullivan is fielding calls from a lot of seniors who live on their own but don’t drive

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While the coronavirus vaccine rollout is going relatively smoothly in New Hampshire, one city is finding that its older residents are struggling to find transportation to their vaccine appointments.

A Portsmouth city worker will now transport any of the city’s 3,500 seniors who need help getting to their vaccine appointment. 

Brinn Sullivan, the city's senior services supervisor, doesn’t normally take people to medical appointments, but these aren't normal times.

“The fear I hear in people’s voices when they call is real,” Sullivan said Friday.

She started helping seniors book their vaccine appointments last week and quickly learned that the state’s two closest vaccination sites are about 20 minutes away.

“They are far enough away that it was a burden for individuals who might even drive, but it’s just a bridge too far,” she explained.

But the solution was simple, she said with a laugh: “I would drive them.”

More than 300,000 New Hampshire residents who are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine are already signed up to get their first shot.

Barbara LaSalla is one of her first rides next week.

“My husband is 90 and he drives locally,” LaSalla explained. “I don’t drive anymore because I have neuropathy.”

It turns out that LaSalla and her husband are not alone. Sullivan is fielding calls from a lot of seniors who live on their own but don’t drive. 

“It was a tremendous relief because, obviously, I knew if I didn’t have a ride, I wouldn’t be able to get the vaccine,” LaSalla explained.

And while bus driver isn’t exactly part of Sullivan’s job description, she says she is grateful to play this pivotal role amid the pandemic.

“To be able to help this singular need that I know is going to alleviate a lot of people’s fears, that feels good, that feels really good,” Sullivan said.

The Portsmouth senior center serves anyone 50 and older.

Sullivan said not to hesitate to call if you need help getting to your vaccine appointment. People 65 years and older can now sign up for the vaccine in New Hampshire here.

Another coronavirus vaccine appears to protect against the virus: Johnson & Johnson's, which showed 85% efficacy against severe illness.
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