Homebound patients struggle for access to COVID-19 vaccine

Not all elderly people have equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Video Transcript

ROGER EDWARDS: Time spent trying to get the vaccine, I mean, it started late last year. Wow. At least four months.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Running into brick walls is how Roger Edwards describes trying to get his mom, Georgia, a COVID-19 vaccine.

ROGER EDWARDS: And I was thinking, wow, that is weird. It's crazy. It doesn't seem fair. It became clear that the CDC's rollout strategy had a hole in it, and there was a sub population that was being overlooked.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: At more than 80 years old, she's been eligible for months, but she's also confined to her home with little mobility, which turns out leaves her with almost no options in Wayne County.

ROGER EDWARDS: It felt like my mom was being abandoned through no fault of her own, and not just her, all the others that are like her. Because they were immobile, because they're bed confined, and because they can't wait in a line in a stretcher at one of these vaccine sites, that they were being left behind. I was like, there was just something wrong with that.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Primary care doctor, health department, chain pharmacies, you name it, Edward has tried.

ROGER EDWARDS: Everyone that shot me down, so to speak, had nothing else for me. They didn't have another possible solution, no other recommendation.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: And so we tried.

Are you guys offering any vaccines to people who are homebound at this time?

With similar results.

You're not?

Again and again, no options and no advice.

No?

He's not alone. The State estimates nearly 100,000 North Carolinians are homebound.

CHARLENE WONG: I think one obvious challenge are the logistics of actually getting vaccine out to individuals who are in different homes. Our vaccines come in vials with multiple doses.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Doses that need to be used in a certain time and kept at a certain temperature, added challenges when going home to home. Wong says local organizations are helping navigate some of these obstacles.

CHARLENE WONG: Urging our partnerships for homebound vaccinations, particularly with organizations that are already serving homebound individuals, [? organizations ?] like our area agencies on aging, Meals on Wheels, faith communities.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: The State Health Department says 100 providers across the State are offering homebound services, but the State isn't publicly sharing where these are. Wong claims another 300 organizations are willing to help, but when we call providers in Wayne County, we didn't hear of any.

CHARLENE WONG: As we're doing this, we're also tracking where in the State are we seeing more of these partnerships formed, where might there be gaps, and this is where we're working with some of our statewide organizations like the Association for Home Care and Hospice to try to help make sure that we're filling those gaps, but certainly lots of work to do there.

- For now, her advice is to simply call around to providers listed on the health department website, advice Edwards has taken without luck for four months. And if you're in a similar situation, I did have the best luck with independent pharmacies, who told me that they would be willing to make house calls, depending on how far away that the patient lives. There is hope that as more Johnson & Johnson doses do become available, vaccinating homebound residents will become easier. Reporting for the I-Team, Samantha Kummerer, ABC 11, Eyewitness News.