Nurse Maria Ticas-Alcala administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Carmen Torres at home in Greenspoint.
Vaccinating Vulnerable Patients at Home
Harris Health System, the public health system of Harris County, Texas, is delivering COVID-19 vaccines to bedridden patients at home through its House Call Service.
The dedicated program of doctors and nurses recently completed its 108th "fully-COVID vaccinated" patient visit, after administering both doses as part of a home vaccination program which launched on 21 February and will continue until all 300+ patients who qualify are vaccinated. Vaccines are prepared daily at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, with the team averaging eight home visits a day between the hours of 9.00 am and 3.00 pm.
The organisation also vaccinates primary caregivers living in a patient’s home to provide an extra layer of protection against the virus.
Christy Chukwu, senior operations manager, House Call Service, explains: "A lot of our patients may have difficulty getting to and from our clinics or they’re just unable to make it, so we’re partnering with our Harris Health Emergency Services Department and our community vaccination team, Troubleshooters, to bring vaccines to them.
"Our mission is to prevent unnecessary suffering, improve health and quality of life and prevent frequent visits to the emergency room and avoidable hospital admissions."
For John Cox Jr., getting out of bed is one of the hardest things to do in a day, and the 45-year-old is only mobile because his caregiver physically lifts and moves him. So when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, making a trip to a large stadium vaccination site - or any other healthcare location, is almost impossible.
"If I can get my shot, everyone else should get it too," says Cox. "I want to show everyone that it’s safe and can help you."
Carmen Torres is also unable to get out of bed, so when Harris Health called her daughter and caregiver to schedule a vaccination visit, the family was excited.
"I can’t tell you what a relief it is to get my mother vaccinated," says Ana Pacheco. "I was so worried that we wouldn’t get her vaccinated because we can’t go out so easily."
For Torres who's 86, getting her shots was an easy decision, however. "I just put my trust in God and the professional hands of these good people,", she says.
The home vaccination program team of a nurse practitioner, a licensed vocational nurse, emergency medical technician and driver perform a full-health screening and get informed consent prior to administering the vaccination.
Harris Health currently has nearly 290,000 unique patients, many who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the next few months. Additionally, staff and medical partners are being vaccinated.
Maria De La Cruz, manager, Care Integration, Population Health at Harris Health, observes the public's response to enhanced vaccination efforts has been overwhelmingly positive, with 124,000 vaccine doses administered to patients and staff since mid-December.
Harris Health’s House Call Service provides medical and primary care to adult patients 18 years and older who are homebound, need assistance with management of chronic disease and/or need assistance with management of palliative symptoms. Another focus is older patients requiring geriatric and palliative care to help them manage symptoms and improve quality of life during serious illness. Additionally, the program attends to patients needing family medicine care to provide comprehensive healthcare management to adults with complex medical problems.