Vaccination Coordination: A new role for home health

Home health and hospice agencies have played a critical role in pandemic response since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, providing health care and personal care at home—including COVID-19 care—keeping patients safer and reducing the pressures on hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Now home health agencies and hospice agencies have a new role—making sure homebound Vermonters eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations can get them. They began by screening the Vermonters they serve to identify anyone who cannot safely get to a vaccination clinic.

On February 5, teams of home health and hospice agency nurses and emergency medical services (EMS) providers began vaccinating homebound Vermonters—and eligible family members—at home. This was the culmination of several weeks of planning to address the storage, transportation and scheduling challenges that come with the vaccines that are currently available. Once a vaccination team receives thawed vials of vaccine from the department of health, they have five days to administer it all. When a vial is opened and transferred to individual syringes, vaccination teams have six hours to administer those doses.

From talking with my counterparts in other parts of the country, it’s clear that Vermont is a leader in vaccinating homebound individuals. I'm so proud of this effort, pictured in the photos below—a wonderful demonstration that Vermonters know what "we're all in this together" really means.

The next step is identifying homebound Vermonters who are not directly served by home health and hospice agencies. In many communities, that work has already begun, with the home health and hospice agencies taking a lead role in collecting information from the communities. Agencies have also shared their expertise with the state officials who are planning a coordinated statewide approach to identifying homebound Vermonters. As I’ve said before, we will not leave any homebound Vermonter behind.