This past week we saw the opening of the online booking system for vaccinations for those over 80 years old, the next phase in the vaccination strategy here in Ontario, Canada. At 8am the booking system went live and was promptly overwhelmed with demand, with the online queue growing to over 20,000 people within 5 minutes. It is clear that as caregivers and family members we are all desperate to get those most at risk a vaccination as soon as possible.
It is great news for those seniors who are able to get to their local vaccination clinic or have loved ones who are able to help them get there. However, what does this mean for a family or caregiver with a senior who is housebound?
Does being homebound make these individuals less at risk? And therefore, less in need of the vaccine? Definitely not. “Those who are homebound are just as high-risk for hospitalization and death as any other older adult,” says Dr. Steven Landers, CEO at Visiting Nurse Association Health Group (https://abcn.ws/3rY2fph). At home these individuals still see family, home caregivers and healthcare professionals, therefore the risk is still very much there. At this time little to no plans have been made to get this part of the population vaccinated. In the US, some states are talking about a system where you can call, or email in, to request a vaccine at home. But this system has not seen any formal implementation as of yet.
Why is this? Many believe it to be a logistical nightmare to get vaccinations to personal homes. Between the way the vaccines have to be stored and kept at a low temperature, to make sure that there is someone to administer the shot. But the fact is, most of the vaccines currently in use can be ‘thawed’ for a maximum of 6 hours. We see this as enough time and so does Dr. Alykhan Abdulla.
“Plenty of time for a paper-route style delivery to homebound seniors in the same neighbourhood.”– Cassandra Szklarski
(“Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors” by Cassandra Szklarski for CTV News – https://bit.ly/3lrj- Cassandra Szklarski).
The country of Israel, which has been considered to have a very strong vaccination strategy, worked to separate shipments of vaccines into smaller shipments in order to bring them to specific neighbourhoods where the need was identified. It is possible, but right now nothing is in the works, in Canada or the US.
There has been so much focus on those at risk in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, while our seniors at the same risk level at home are being forgotten. Caregivers and family members fear their homebound seniors are going to be skipped past as we move towards other age groups, and we don’t blame them. It’s disappointing to see the lack of interest or necessity, at every level, being placed on those who are at home, and we hope there is a system put in place as soon as possible.
As of 2013, the US estimated there to be 1 million individuals permanently homebound, aged 65 or older (https://bit.ly/38NhNow). With Covid-19 we saw an increase in interest for and implementation of at home care for seniors. This was in order for them to be protected from the risks of larger groups in nursing or long term care homes. Has that now become a disservice in their chances of getting the vaccine in a timely manner?
What also does this mean for adults with physical disabilities living in home settings? We would love to hear from you! If you are a homebound senior, or care for a homebound senior, what has been your experience?
Back to the future: home-based primary care for older homebound Canadians – https://bit.ly/3f1MnyC
Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors – https://bit.ly/3s81eez