The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
After jumping through legal and logistical hoops, local health departments are preparing to vaccinate their homebound residents.
“There’s an awful lot that goes into that,” Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said of organizing visits for residents who are unable to make it to clinics in person. “It’s a very resource-intensive thing to do.”
On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, instructions about homebound vaccination procedures include careful mapping of travel plans to ensure the vaccine is used in the appropriate time frame, temperature gauges before, during and after transportation, contingency plans to avoid wasted doses, and knowledge of patient-accessibility issues providers could encounter. The list goes on.
For several weeks, towns have been collecting names of those who need to be vaccinated in their homes, but due to administrative and logistical holdups, have just begin planning to administer the doses. Several towns have reported they have set up teams of two or possibly three medical personnel — usually a doctor and a nurse or emergency medical technician — to make the visits and oversee the process. The visits take time and energy, as the teams have to stay in the home with the person for the requisite 15-minute period after each dose is administered to monitor for possible adverse reactions.
Obtaining approval to move the vaccines has caused some delays.
“I think the problem that we had was the rules are very, very specific from CDC and Vaccine Administration Management System in terms of moving vaccine,” Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn said. Brookfield plans to begin at home vaccination visits on Wednesday, and will continue to vaccinate homebound residents for as long as is necessary.
The town has three teams of two that will be vaccinating 20 residents with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Wednesday, Dunn said.
In New Fairfield, the health department has been working on a plan since mid-February and has been able to begin at-home vaccinations. They’ve completed two visits so far, according to First Selectwoman Pat Del Monaco. The town has another 15 people on their list and plan to do four more homebound vaccinations this week, she said.
Bethel has been working for several weeks to get a plan in place to vaccinate the roughly 20 people on its list, and hope to start this week or next week, Knickerbocker said. The town hopes to muster enough people to form the home vaccination teams as well as receiving enough vaccine doses from the state.
New Milford is tentatively looking to March 16th as its first day of home vaccinations, according to Health Director Lisa Morrissey. Her health department has come up with a plan that ensures a nurse will be paired with a paramedic when shots are administered.
While Morrissey said it’s premature to state the total number of homebound vaccine recipients, she did note they were adding a couple more names to their list every day with the help of the senior center.
The town started running closed clinics on March 6 to vaccinate local school and child care staff.
These special vaccination visits aren’t for just anyone who prefers the convenience of a shot at home.
“It really has to be for people who are truly homebound and cannot leave,” Knickerbocker said. That means people who physically are unable to get to a vaccination site, and those whose medical providers have instructed them not to leave their homes for health reasons, according to the CDC.
While disability advocates agree that rollout should follow proper mandates and procedure, they emphasize that creating and implementing efficient, effective plans to vaccinate some of the state’s most vulnerable — those with disabilities or underlying heath conditions — need to be a priority.
“I do think it needs to be expedited because each day that goes by, you don’t get that day back,” said Deborah Dorfman, executive director of Disability Rights Connecticut, a group that has been advocating to include those with underlying health conditions to vaccine eligibility. She said it shouldn’t be a surprise that some residents need to be vaccinated at home, so there should have been plans in place from the start.
“It’s really important that they receive their vaccines as soon as possible,” she said. “At this point, there shouldn’t be any more delays.”
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