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Coronavirus

St. Louis County Expands Program To Deliver COVID-19 Vaccine To Homebound Residents

Pharmacy Tech Madison Wilmes fills syringes with the coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital on March 4, 2021.
Sarah Fentem
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County is expanding its program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people who cannot leave their homes.

St. Louis County health officials are expanding a program that distributes the COVID-19 vaccine to homebound residents and people with disabilities who can’t travel to vaccination sites.

This week, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health will work with 15 fire and EMS districts in the county to help deliver the vaccine to homes and independent living facilities.

“We've lined up a lot of partners, and we already have a lot of people who have been asking us for this for quite some time,” said Spring Schmidt, St. Louis County deputy director of public health. “We really are trying to make like some economies of scale, like if someone is out with five doses, that they go to five houses that are relatively close to each other, but this is much more intense.”

The county had been working with five fire districts this month to help deliver vaccines through a pilot program. The county is expanding vaccination efforts to prioritize people who have no other choice than to have a vaccine delivered to their home, Schmidt said.

Advocates for homebound people and people with disabilities in the St. Louis region said many homebound residents need help getting the vaccine.

Some homebound residents can rely on family members or loved ones to drive them to schedule appointments, but not everyone can immediately respond when a vaccine becomes available,” said Dawn Chapman, a member of the county’s disability commission and a volunteer assisting with scheduling vaccine appointments.

That’s why it’s important to take the vaccine to them, she said.

“If you are registered, and you get a phone call, or you get an email saying, ‘hey, you're up, it's your time’ well, you have to find somebody very quickly to be able to get you to your vaccine,” Chapman said.

Registering for the vaccine also is a hurdle for some, especially people who may not have internet access or a cell phone, Chapman said.

She'd like the county to allow people who register for the vaccine online to indicate that they are unable to leave their homes.

Schmidt said people who are homebound, even if they’ve already registered with the county, should call the county’s hotline to inform the health department that they are homebound. Schmidt said after determining eligibility, a staff member will add the person to a list of homebound people who need someone to bring the vaccine to them.

The region's health officials need to ensure that people who are most vulnerable have access to the vaccine, said Aimee Wehmeier, the president of Paraquad, an organization that provides services to people with disabilities.

“This is really an opportunity to call out to the community, and to say, hey, think about your neighbors and family members who may not have access, or may not be on the minds of folks, but who really need the vaccine,” Wehmeier said. “I think there are a lot of folks out there who want to help, but it's also going to help us to have the community help educate people about the availability of a vaccine.”

Homebound residents can call 314-615-2660 to be added to the county’s homebound list.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

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