RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In Wake County, 74 percent of people 75 years and older have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
That helped put the state at the top in the country for vaccinating the most vulnerable population.
But Sherry and Brandy Decker said there’s one group that’s being left out and that’s the homebound population in Wake County. They know firsthand because their 82-year-old mother Shirley Thornton is homebound.
“She’s on oxygen 24/7. She can’t walk anymore basically. Plus, she is Stage 4 emphysema and COPD,” the sisters said.
The two said getting their mom out the house involves going down two flights of stairs. It’s an hour process and they’ll have to hire someone to get it done, which could expose her to people who may not be vaccinated.
“I know some people might say is, ‘She never leaves the house. Why bother?’ Well, because I can’t even have my sons visit at this point,” Brandy Decker said.
The sisters said they’ve reached out to several hospitals and the Wake County Department of Health, but were directed to schedule an appointment at the drive-thru clinic at PNC Arena.
A statement from Wake County said in part: “As the number of Wake County vaccine providers increases each week, including some home health providers, and more supply becomes available, including the single-dose J&J, the options and programs for those people in the homebound population will increase.”
The county also considered the idea of teaming up with Meals on Wheels to provide vaccines to their homebound participants.
Meals on Wheels identified at least 400 people who were ready to receive the shot. That program never took off, but a county spokesperson said it is not off the table. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could make that possible.
The county also explained that going house-to-house involves an incredible amount of manpower that’s why the state has put emphasis on mass vaccination.
But there are other communities and health care systems that are providing a similar service. Last month, the Wake Forest Baptist House Call Program started providing vaccines to their homebound patients and caregivers if enough vaccines were available.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Inter County Public Transportation Authority out of Elizabeth City used state funding to provide free rides to COVID-19 vaccine appointments to transport nurses to administer the vaccine to people who are homebound.
“You kind of feel trapped. You call these different agencies, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of resources or assistance,” Brandy and Sherry Decker added.
The sisters said they realized that if they put their mom in an assisted living facility, she would have received her vaccine by now.