HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — For most people, getting a COVID-19 vaccine appointment has become easier in recent weeks, as supply and vaccine events have flooded the area.
For those who can’t leave home, though, there’s still frustration with the process.
Last month, 10 On Your Side introduced you to Rosie Lucas, a 94-year-old woman confined to her York County home because of her health issues.
Her daughter has worked for months to find her an appointment, to no avail. Frustrated, she reached out to 10 On Your Side for answers.
We found out Lucas is among about 1,500 Virginia residents who cannot leave their homes without medical transport, according to Virginia Department of Health vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula.
Vaccinating people in their homes poses a logistical challenge because of the temperature sensitive formula.
“When you open a vial of the vaccine, you’ve got to use that vial within a certain number of hours,” Avula said. “You need to time it well from one of your ongoing sites, and when you get to the bottom of a vial, if you’ve got one dose, send a nurse or a vaccinator out with that dose.”
Adding to the complicated process, a 15 to 30 minute observation period by a medical professional is required after the dose is administered, according to Chesapeake Health District director Dr. Nancy Welch.
Plans for vaccinating homebound residents are underway across Hampton Roads, but most localities did not give a timeline for when they expected to have most of that population vaccinated.
In Suffolk, a partnership between Fire & Rescue crews, Bayview Physicians Group and Meals on Wheels delivered vaccines to people in their homes. A city spokesperson said there are no future in-home vaccine events planned.
The broader Western Tidewater Health District is working with fire-rescue groups to develop a strategy to vaccinate people in their homes, but no specific plan has been announced.
A partnership with Meals on Wheels is in the works, and will cover Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Poquoson and James City County.
Health district spokesperson Irene Ferrainolo said the program will launch once the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes in, since that will be the most efficient way to vaccinate people in their homes.
If you live in these areas and cannot physically leave your home, call 757-594-7324 and leave a message with your name, phone number and locality.
Those in need of an in-home vaccine can reach out to Brittany Watson of the Virginia Beach Health Department, who will arrange an appointment with a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In-home vaccines are also handled on a case-by-case basis in Norfolk. Call the city’s COVID-19 hotline for help: 757-683-2745.
In Chesapeake, the health department is developing a list of residents in need of an in-home vaccine based on information it receives from the city’s Emergency Medical Services department.
Health department director Nancy Welch stressed the importance of prioritizing the vaccination of health care providers and caretakers.
“Having those who come to the home vaccinated is an excellent means to protect the homebound and can be accomplished expeditiously as vaccine supply and availability of sites increases,” Welch wrote in an email.
The director and spokesperson for the Portsmouth Health Department did not respond to requests for information.
Virginia Department of Health
The Virginia Department of Health is working with the commonwealth’s Medicaid program to develop a plan to vaccinate homebound individuals covered under its plan, according to vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula.
Those not covered by Medicaid should reach out to their local health department, Avula said.
A spokesperson for Sentara said the system is developing plans to vaccinate its homebound and hospitalized patients using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. An extremely limited quantity is expected in the coming weeks.
Riverside is working with VDH and local health departments and governments to vaccinate homebound residents, according to a statement from Riverside president and COO Mike Dacey.
“As details are finalized will be conducting outreach to those specific people to make certain they receive the same vaccination opportunities as others on the Peninsula,” he said.