Local health officials have begun COVID-19 vaccine outreach to the homebound and have set up clinics in underserved areas.
The activity is a shift from the Wallingford Health Department’s efforts to provide public vaccination clinics at the Wallingford Senior Center. The intent is to focus on underserved and underinsured populations, after large scale vaccination providers, such as Hartford HealthCare, and pharmacies began offering the vaccine in town.
“We started this past Tuesday and it went quite well,” said Wallingford Health Director Stephen Civitelli. “At this point we are working with the Wallingford Fire Department.”
The state designated the Wallingford Health Department as a homebound coordinator for town residents who are physically unable to go to a vaccination clinic or mass vaccination site.
There has been some criticism from suburban and rural health officials about potential misuse of the program.
“The criteria set forth by the state program is clearly defined when registering,” Civitelli said. “As we complete more homebound vaccinations we will be able to establish if there are flaws in the registration process.”
Maura Esposito, executive director of the Chesprocott Health District, is surprised at the numbers of people who have signed up for homebound vaccination. As an early member of the panel tasked with implementing outreach to the homebound, Esposito would like to see more providers involved in the undertaking. Cheshire is part of the health district.
“It’s very time consuming,” Esposito said. “Last week we had five people and it took four hours”
Chesprocott gets a list of homebound residents through the senior centers and screens them to make sure they qualify. She also would like to see more homebound patients have conversations with their doctors over the need for a vaccine, particularly if they haven’t left their beds in months and family and healthcare workers are all vaccinated.
“They should talk to the doctor, and ask ‘what is the risk,’ if all family members are vaccinated,” Esposito said. “It’s easier for us to vaccinate all of them (family). Herd immunity is to protect the people who can’t get the shot.”
Esposito is asking the senior centers to screen out those truly homebound and send the senior bus for those with transportation difficulties. She schedules the home visits following the regular clinics at the towns’ senior centers, and has five in Wolcott this Friday.
“We don’t need more things on our plate,” Esposito said. “But I’m making the staff interview them. I only want the real patients. We want to make sure they’re medically homebound.”
Homebound residents are asked to register with the state. If they cannot register because of technical issues they may call the Wallingford Public Health Department directly. The vaccination teams are also setting up clinics at the Wallingford Housing Authority and the Spanish Community of Wallingford, in addition to visiting more residential locations.
Wallingford and the Plainville-Southington Health District receive a weekly email list of individuals who registered for the week and department staff coordinates the vaccine visits.
“I think the system is working right now,” said Shane Lockwood, director of the Plainville-Southington Health District. “We would continue to caution that this is only for homebound individuals and all others should seek vaccination at one of the many sites in the area.”
The state Department of Public Health has set up a website for those who are homebound. They can register at https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/homebound.
The city of Meriden is not involved in the homebound COVID-19 vaccination clinics at this time, as its limited number of vaccinators are working at the Meriden Senior Center clinics four days a week. But providers such as Hartford HealthCare and the Community Health Centers Inc. have teamed with local churches and the Meriden Housing Authority to offer vaccines in community locations.
“At this time we recommend those that are homebound contact their medical provider to see if their office can provide vaccinations,” stated Lea Crown, Meriden director of health and human services.