Efforts to vaccinate thousands of homebound Wisconsin residents underway

NOW: Efforts to vaccinate thousands of homebound Wisconsin residents underway

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Efforts to vaccinate thousands of homebound residents are happening across the state, doctors say the homebound community includes some of the most vulnerable to getting COVID-19.

State data show 108,062 adults aged 65 and older in Wisconsin who do not live in a nursing home have difficulty running errands like going to the doctor’s office, getting groceries or going to vaccine clinics.

“Typically, people who are homebound have other health conditions that lead to them being homebound, so it’s a population that’s highly vulnerable and oftentimes underserved,” said Dr. Ben Weston, an associate professor with the Medical College of Wisconsin and medical director at Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Beginning Tuesday, March 16, 1,500 meals delivered each day in Milwaukee County by Goodwill’s Meals on Wheels program to homebound older adults included flyers with information on how they can call Health Connections, Inc. to schedule in-home vaccinations.

“It’s been a wonderful thing to happen, so it’s truly the whole 'we’re all in this together,' said Ericka Sinclair, founder and CEO of Health Connections, Inc. in Milwaukee County. “That has generated some of the calls that we’ve gotten.”

In a matter of weeks, hundreds of homebound residents have contacted Health Connections, Inc. in Milwaukee County. The organization is collaborating with state and local entities to also reach out in finding more people who may need in-home immunizations.

Many patients they talk to are grateful, some even teary.

“Most of our calls are like that, and they’re just happy that someone thought about it,” added Sinclair.

Other areas of the state have also been proactive, including UW Health’s Care Direct in Dane County. 

I had one, you know, that told me he was just so excited because his granddaughter was going to be able to visit him in two weeks and he hadn’t seen her in over a year,” said Julie Slattery, chief clinical officer for UW Health’s Care Direct. “These may be patients that are wheelchair bound, are unable to get even into a vehicle without two or three people assisting them and may have multiple conditions that place them at greater risk.”

UW Health's Care Direct is now receiving 60 Pfizer doses a week from the Wisconsin DHS to vaccinate the homebound community. They hope to immunize 180 homebound residents by the end of the week.

“We’re finding more than we probably had anticipated,” said Slattery. “Organizing everybody geographically and getting to their homes within the timeframe and make sure we have enough staff to be able to do that, you know it kind of takes up the whole day.”

In-home vaccination programs say they plan to expand to the younger population who may be significantly homebound now that eligibility has opened up to millions more Wisconsinites with comorbidities.

“Really want to expand on it, get more resources around it to make sure that we can do this and do this in a way that’s respectful and dignified as everyone should get health care,” Sinclair says.

If you are homebound in Milwaukee County and would like to schedule an in-home vaccine, call Health Connections, Inc. at 414-999-1099 or click here for more information.  

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