Missouri partnerships ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for homebound residents

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced a partnership between the Area Agencies on Aging, local public health agencies, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to ensure homebound adults have a streamlined and accessible vaccination experience across the state. Understanding that various communities have already developed a plan for vaccinating homebound individuals in their area, the partnerships established by the State are to merely supplement and allow these efforts to continue at the local level.

COVID-19 vaccination of homebound persons presents unique challenges to ensure the appropriate vaccine storage, temperatures, handling, and administration to ensure safe and effective vaccination.  Both CDC and CMS define homebound persons as those that need the help of another person or medical equipment such as crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair to leave their home, or their medical provider believes that their health or illness could get worse if they leave their home, and they typically do not leave their home. 

The homebound referral process begins with the Area Agencies on Aging who are experts in discerning homebound status. Adults who are homebound and want to be vaccinated in their home can register through their local Area Agency on Aging or through the Missouri Vaccine Navigator registry by indicating they are homebound. Individuals reaching out to the State COVID-19 Hotline seeking vaccination for a homebound individual will be directed to their local Area Agency on AgingThe homebound individual, their caregiver, family member, or healthcare provider can make the referral. 

The Area Agency on Aging makes contact with the homebound individual to obtain consent and gather the pertinent information to coordinate the vaccination in their home.  In some cases, caregivers and other household members may also be vaccinated at the same time as the homebound individual to prevent vaccine wastage. The Area Agency on Aging turns over the list of registered homebound individuals to their local public health agency or EMS provider who then schedules the in-home appointments. The AAA may also provide the homebound individual with courtesy appointment reminders via phone as many do not have internet or email access. 

The City of St. Louis Department of Health teamed up with the St. Louis Fire Department, Team Rubicon and the St. Louis City Area Agency on Aging to provide their homebound residents COVID-19 vaccination opportunity.

“This program will provide much-needed protection against COVID-19 for clients who may find it difficult to visit a vaccine clinic,” says Dr. Fredrick Echols, Acting Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. “By bringing the vaccine to them, we remove the barrier of travel and ensure these clients are not left behind in the vaccination process.”

[View Photo]  James Thompson, EMS Supervisor, and Mary Sullivan with Team Rubicon vaccinate a homebound resident of St. Louis City.

Kansas City’s homebound vaccination strategy involves a partnership between the Mid-America Region Council (MARC) Area Agency on Aging, the local health departments of Cass, Clay and Platte Counties and Kansas City, as well as multiple EMS and fire districts.

Chief Chip Portz of Central Jackson County Fire District said, “By partnering with our local health department and by taking advantage of reimbursement opportunities, the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District is able to provide this vital community service to a very vulnerable population without using emergency crews who would normally be protecting the rest of our citizens. We use off-duty paramedics in a non-emergency role to ensure our emergency response capacity is not diminished or compromised.”

[View Photo]  Central Jackson County Fire District, Captain Paramedic, Nathan Manley is providing vaccination to a homebound resident.

Lee’s Summit Assistant Fire Chief, Dan Manley, who has been instrumental in regional emergency planning, arranged a vaccine event for MARC Aging and Adult Services staff as well as their community partner who is delivering meals to self-isolating congregate and homebound older adults during COVID.

“Having our staff and volunteers vaccinated protects our most vulnerable homebound residents that we serve,” said Manley.

If you or someone you know is homebound or unable to visit a COVID-19 vaccination clinic without assistance, please call the COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411 and press option 4 to be routed directly to your local Area Agency on Aging to make a vaccine appointment. You can also register homebound individuals for the vaccine by visiting Missouri’s COVID-19 website, MOStopsCovid.com. COVID-19 Hotline hours of operation are Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Individuals are encouraged to call soon to ensure their names are added to the list.