Here in Central Missouri, health officials rely on local ambulance services to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to homebound residents and senior citizens.
State health leaders, emergency medical services and local nonprofit organizations have created partnerships and processes to give homebound adults access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services directs homebound individuals in our region to call Aging Best (formerly the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging), whose responsibilities include planning, coordinating, developing and delivering an array of long-term services and support to consumers, said Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell. Aging Best may be reached at 1-800-369-5211.
"Once Aging Best determines that the individuals are truly homebound and qualify for delivery of the vaccine, they also verify the address and other details," Campbell said. "Then they send those names to the Regional Implementation Team for that region."
Campbell is the local region's lead, so she receives information on patients. Most teams either take the vaccines to the person requesting a vaccination, or they work with their local emergency medical service organization to deliver the vaccine.
"Here in Cole County, our Cole County EMS has been delivering the vaccines to the homes," Campbell said.
"Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicaid Services define homebound persons as those that need the help of another person or medical equipment such as crutches, a walker or a wheelchair to leave their home, or their medical provider believes that their health or illness could get worse if they leave their home, and they typically do not leave their home," according to a DHSS news release.
Getting the vaccinations into the arms of homebound people presents unique challenges for each county, the release said. Counties must ensure the appropriate vaccine storage, temperatures, handling and administration to ensure safe and effect vaccinations, it continued.
The Area Agency on Aging contacts the homebound person to obtain information and consent, and coordinates home visits. In some cases, caregivers and other household members may also be vaccinated during the same visit.
The Area Agency on Aging provides the information to its local public health agency and schedules in-home appointments.
When necessary, Cole County EMS has gone above and beyond and provided vaccinations for homebound people outside the county, according to Donna Seidel, assistant director of nurses for the county health department.
"I know that they've gone to Callaway County. They have helped with people in (several) different counties," Seidel said. "I think it's gone well."
Osage County health officials have been reaching homebound residents since Missouri opened vaccinations to the state's entire adult population, said Kim Sallin, director of the Osage County Health Department.
She added some staff members have gone to people's homes to provide vaccinations.
Otherwise, the county health department has a memorandum of understanding with Osage County Ambulance District.
"I'm going to guess that we've done between 15 and 20 homebound individuals," Sallin said.
The challenge, she said, is notifying residents the service is available. In many cases, homebound people in Osage County don't have access to the internet, social media, newspapers or other media, she said.
"That's a little bit of a struggle — is getting the word out to them," Sallin said.
Meanwhile, staff have attended food pantries and offered vaccinations at those sites.
The department offers a weekly vaccination clinic 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays at the department, 205 E. Main St., Linn.
"People can come at their convenience," Sallin said. "Forty-two showed up last week. That's pretty big for us. That's going to continue. Anybody, from any county, can walk in and get a vaccine."