In Broome County, Homebound Patients Receive Vaccine Via Mobile Effort

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Health care agencies in Broome County are going door-to-door to give homebound residents the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The county gave Lourdes at Home 150 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to homebound residents who are 60 or older.

Beth Hickey is a nurse manager at Lourdes at Home and works in the hospice division. She said the shots went to patients who were isolated and cannot leave the house. Many were just out of the hospital and weak. They could have long-term health conditions or a disability.

“They feel very vulnerable because they are homebound and obviously have health issues and they feel like they would be at high risk,” Hickey said. “So many people really want to get the vaccine and they just knew that they weren’t going to be able to get out.”

Staff at Lourdes at Home vaccinated homebound patients 60 or older and some caregivers after they were allotted 150 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines by Broome County. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

Broome County officials told Lourdes at Home it must administer the vaccines allotted within a single week of receiving them. The Department of Health implemented a “Use it or Lose it” policy; if a county or pharmacy doesn’t use its shipment within seven days, it risks receiving fewer vaccines in its next allocation.

Hickey said the short notice required the agency to act quickly, but vaccinating residents between several distant communities took careful planning.

The vaccine comes in vials with five doses each. Once the vial is open, Hickey said nurses have six hours to administer each dose before they expire, and only two hours once it is in a syringe.

“A couple of times we actually had the dose in a syringe at a patient’s house and then found out they really weren’t eligible for it because of their health condition. It was something they were really going to have to check with their provider about again,” Hickey said. “We had that dose and we had to quickly come up with somebody else to get it in their arm.”

But health care leaders with UHS Home Care* said finding enough eligible and interested patients who are not already vaccinated to use their allocated doses within the week has proved challenging. Broome County also gave the home care agency 150 vaccines to distribute last week.

Karla Dotts, the president and chief operating officer for UHS Home Care, said the agency has vaccinated 90 people as of Tuesday, with 30 more interested.

“We’re not 100 percent confident that we’re going to be able to use all 150 here just for the home care census,” Dotts said. “We may have to broaden our homebound definition.”

Of 370 patients enrolled in UHS Home Care’s services, only 120 are interested in the vaccine and have not already received a dose. Many of their patients were vaccinated while in a short-term, rehabilitation nursing home program.

“Many of them then come to home care once they’re discharged from the rehab unit, and so that population, and the adult care facility population, they’ve already been vaccinated,” Dotts explained.

But there were also a couple of instances in which patients who completed a pre-vaccination screening over the phone changed their mind about the vaccine once nurses arrived at their home.

“That leaves my team working really hard to find an additional person to accept the vaccine,” Dotts said.

They were able to find someone else to give the vaccine to three of the four times that happened.

Hickey said Lourdes at Home also used its allocation to vaccinate some homebound caregivers, who have been left without much other help during the pandemic and are largely confined to the home, through the door-to-door program. Doing so, Hickey said, will allow patients and caregivers to safely welcome visitors and aides in their homes.

She said she hopes the shot will help her patients gain some freedom and see visitors again.

*Full Disclosure: UHS is a WSKG underwriter.