DALLAS (CBSDFW.com) -- For weeks, the local COVID-19 vaccine rollout was marked by enthusiasm, relief and long lines: not exactly doable for the severely disabled or homebound.
"If they had a car or had a family member that could drive them over to one of the larger sites -- sitting in the car for an hour or two or getting out and having to walk -- those are very challenging things for those clients," says Chris Culak, Visiting Nurse Association Vice President, Chief of Strategy and Development. "The mobility issue is a very big part of this."
The Visiting Nurse Association is coming to the rescue again. The decades-old non-profit is already a 'hot meal' lifeline for Meals on Wheels clients. Now, they're working with the City of Dallas on a new program to get interested clients their COVID-19 vaccines at home.
"Our role is to identify the clients and then we route the vaccine deliveries like we route meal delivery," says Culak. City of Dallas Fire Rescue EMTs will administer the vaccines. "Our ability to work with the city to bring it to them, is just really just a game changer, we think, for that population that just would not have the ability to go and get it any other way."
According to Culak, the agency serves roughly 4,500 North Texans through their Meals on Wheels program. The average client is 65 years of age or older and lives alone. Already medically fragile, Culak says many clients have also been the most isolated during the pandemic.
"When you can knock on the door of someone who tells you they haven't been out of their home in a year, haven't seen grandkids in a year, haven't interacted with neighbors in a year... they were literally in tears, a lot of them. Now they know there's a light at the end of the tunnel," says Culak.
The VNA assisted with a pilot roll out of at-home vaccinations in the Cedar Hill/DeSoto area in February. Staffers said what they learned with that effort will make the process slated to launch next week in Dallas even more efficient.
"These are folks that have been isolated in their homes," says Culak. "And now they have a chance to be normal gain."
Right now, 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine will be made available from Dallas County's allotment. Meanwhile, State health department leaders today warned that the amount of Johnson & Johnson vaccine headed to Texas next week will be significantly reduced. However, Dallas city leaders say they have enough vaccine for the program to launch as planned-- while hoping for more vaccine availability in the weeks to come.
"Vaccines are the key to ending the terrible COVID-19 pandemic, and we are working hard to ensure everyone in our city has equitable access to these lifesaving triumphs of modern medicine," said Mayor Eric Johnson, who serves as the City of Dallas Emergency Management Director in a statement announcing the program. "I am excited for what this new partnership will mean for Dallas. For our vulnerable homebound residents, this effort can finally bring an end to the fear of the last year. And for our entire city, these vaccinations represent another important step toward achieving community immunity against a deadly and devastating virus."
Dallas residents can call 214-670-INFO (4636) for more information.
"The hope is the city will continue to get allotments and will then go out and answer the call of folks who say, 'I can't make it to a clinic and I need you to come to my house, too'," says Culak. "[It's] something we are not doing now, but something I know the city wants to tackle."
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