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House Calls Program Brings COVID-19 Vaccine to Homebound Patients

Some of the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are those who are unable to leave their homes due to an illness or physical condition yet are at risk of contracting the disease if a caregiver or health care provider inadvertently brings it into their home. To protect this vulnerable population of people in the Birmingham area, members of the House Calls team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are bringing the vaccine to their patients and to eligible caregivers.

So far, the House Calls program has vaccinated 30 patients and eligible caregivers and plans to administer up to 130 doses by mid-April. The program provides care to patients who cannot travel to their doctor’s office for appointments. The House Calls providers work together as part of an interdisciplinary team made up of a physician, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and a social worker.

Members of the team began administering the vaccine in patients’ homes March 15.

“The vast majority of our patients never leave their home due to extreme frailty, multiple chronic conditions, and functional and/or cognitive limitations. They are among the most vulnerable people in our population and are at the highest risk of serious illness and death from COVID and other infectious diseases,” said Marianthe Grammas, M.D., associate professor in UAB’s Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. “Many of them are exposed to a number of different caregivers coming in and out of the home, all of whom have the potential to spread infection to the patient.”

“Our patients have been very happy and very grateful to receive the vaccine,” said Chaeli Lawson, the lead nurse practitioner for the House Calls program. “They are so grateful to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine just as you or I would.”

According to Grammas, vaccinating the caregivers is equally important as many are homebound as they cannot leave their loved one alone. Grammas says bringing the vaccine to eligible patients and caregivers is a key part of preventing a COVID-19 infection. It is a lifesaving intervention.

“The caregivers do not have to worry about how they would get their loved one to a vaccine site for inoculation. In many of their situations, this would be nearly impossible,” Grammas said. “This not only protects them but further enhances the protection to our patient, the recipient of their care.”

Lawson says vaccinating their patients at home has been a team effort, with help from members of the pharmacy, resource utilization and vaccine distribution teams at UAB.

The House Calls program cares for patients within a 30-mile radius of UAB.