BOSTON — For those unable to leave their home to get the vaccine, no big deal.
The Commonwealth Care Alliance office on Main Street is one of 5 hubs across the state that is storing extra doses. The organization has already had a soft launch as subcontractors go there to pick up the doses and go into people’s homes to administer the vaccines.
“It’s critical,” said Christopher Palmieri, president and CEO of Commonwealth Care Alliance. “First of all, you have 25,000 people roughly that cannot get out of their home to get to a vaccination site by the nature of their condition, which makes them homebound and susceptible to significant health risks including death if they’re not vaccinated and they get COVID-19.”
Those 25,000 people will now be prioritized after the federal government promised an additional shipment.
“This bonus of 41,000 that’s coming in for next week as a one-time shipment allows us to just now implement the homebound program,” said Marylou Sudders, who serves as the Secretary of Health and Human Service. “We actually have softly launched this week to just make sure that the call center works well.”
The soft launch will be a full launch come Monday for the 181 municipalities using the state’s service. The other 170 cities and towns will rely on local boards of health.
“No other state has a Statewide solution,” said Palmieri. “So you have communities that are trying to help their populations that are literally ZIP code by ZIP code.”
Other organizations like GOTVax have also been helping homebound residents for the last few weeks, especially those in underserved communities that were not planning to take the vaccine.
“When we tell patients about it, that it is one shot and it is downstairs waiting for you, it’s your choice whether or not you want to get the vaccine, people say wait one-shot, I only have to do this one time? Okay, I’ll be right down. let me go grab my slippers,” said Dr. Alister Martin, an emergency physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who leads GOTVax.
All of the programs say the one-shot J & J vaccines is what makes this possible.
“J&J does not require the cold storage that the other two do it,” said Palmieri. “It has a longer working time and the vials hold five doses of vaccine.”
Health care providers, Aging Services Access Points (ASAP), Local Boards of Health, Councils on Aging (COAs) and other community organizations will be connecting individuals to the homebound program. In addition, homebound individuals and their loved ones can call 1-833-983-0485 to schedule an appointment and determine if they meet eligibility for in-home vaccination. The registration phone line is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has representatives who speak English and Spanish, as well as translation services available in 100-plus languages.
“CCA is honored to lead this critical mission of vaccinating homebound citizens of Massachusetts,” said Palmieri. “Since our inception, CCA’s approach to care has been rooted in the community to ensure the most appropriate site of care for the individuals we so proudly serve. Over the past few weeks, we have successfully vaccinated hundreds of our own homebound health plan members, and our team is ready to expand this effort across the state and aid the Commonwealth’s vaccination effort in any way we can.”
The state defines “homebound” as anyone who needs the assistance of two or more people to leave the home. The state’s COVID Command Center has asked CCA to handle all the central operations of this vaccination effort, provide a technological infrastructure, conduct patient outreach and scheduling, and oversee distribution logistics.
Eligible homebound residents will be identified and screened by the state with support from local partners like Boards of Health. Individuals or family members can also call the state’s 211 line to answer screening questions and register as a homebound resident for vaccination. The state will then refer eligible residents to CCA.
The State will distribute vaccines weekly to geographic vaccination hubs that CCA will run. Contracted or volunteer vaccinators (EMS, home health agencies, students or local boards of health) will come to these hubs at scheduled times. They will be provided with “go bags” that include appropriate PPE, a list of appointments, and the necessary number of vaccines. The vaccinators will then provide eligible individuals with a vaccine in their home and return to the hub.
Palmieri says not caregivers and any other people in the household at the time of the appointment that meets the state’s general eligibility requirement can also get vaccinated.
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