New Vaccine Service for Homebound Community Members

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The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in a cooler at SRPMIC. Moderna is the current vaccine used by the Community, with plans for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution in the future. Photo submitted by SRPMIC Emergency Operations – Command Team.

To make sure that all Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and residents have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, the SRPMIC Emergency Management staff, with the help of many others, began an effort to provide a new vaccine service for homebound individuals on March 1.

So far, SRPMIC has administered approximately 5,000 Moderna vaccines to some of the most vulnerable Community members who haven’t had good access to a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

SRPMIC Emergency Manager Cliff Puckett said that the staff is very excited about this new program.

“We have a policy team that’s helping the command team that manages COVID-19 response for the Community, and the issue of homebound individuals came up in terms of how we’re going to serve their COVID needs,” said Puckett. “And by COVID needs, we refer to getting them the vaccine as well as some testing that they may need.”

The first step was to identify the stakeholders in the Community who may know who and where these homebound individuals are. A task force was created, which brought multiple players from the Community together to address this issue. For example, the Emergency Management team asked the Senior Services Department to aid in identifying homebound people who may need the most help. A program was developed that uses the SRPMIC COVID hotline, the same number that Community members have had access to previously. Those who meet the team’s definition of homebound can call to schedule home testing and vaccine services.

Some people are not truly homebound—really all they need is transportation to Community vaccine or testing sites. In that case, transportation can be provided.

“If it is determined that the Community member truly met the definition of homebound, a nurse from our Community Health Nursing Program would schedule an appointment,” said Puckett. “[The nurse] would come out to the home, educate them on the vaccine, administer the vaccine and then wait for 15 or 30 minutes, depending on what types of reactions [the individual] historically has had to a vaccine.” The nurse will leave them with contact information in case they experience any adverse reactions.

Puckett said that the SRPMIC just received notification that the Community will be obtaining the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only needs to be administered once, as opposed to the currently used Moderna vaccine, which requires two doses about a month apart. The Emergency Response team is still trying to figure out the logistics of which vaccine to use for the majority of the homebound vaccine patients.

Puckett has a message for those who may have questions or who are weary about the vaccine. “We are stuck with the fact that it is a personal choice [to get vaccinated], so we just encourage people to do the research, do their homework, and if they have questions about the vaccine, we have people who can answer them,” he said.

“Reach out to us and we can at least get you educated, but ultimately it comes down to a personal choice. Sometimes the reason to get [vaccinated] is not necessarily for yourself, but for an elder or somebody who may have an underlying medical condition. That may be the driving force that makes an individual get the vaccine, so there are a lot of reasons to get it. The key is to get educated and make a choice based on your specific needs and hopefully make the Community safer, which is our ultimate goal.”

For homebound services, call the COVID hotline number at (480) 362-2603 and go through the phone tree. Homebound services is option number 3. Press that number and leave a message. If nobody answers, somebody will return your call, usually within 24 hours.

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