Here’s the story of one elderly American citizen who agreed to be vaccinated against COVID-19, yet hasn’t been able to receive a shot as of mid-June, 2021.
Someone I care about has a very complex medical situation. Her health is fragile, and her immune system is compromised.
My loved one is frail and almost completely housebound; it is a struggle even to get her to scheduled doctors’ appointments with ample notice. Sometimes, her body simply won’t conform to the constraints of sitting in a passenger vehicle.
She certainly would not be able to wait 30 minutes on a hard chair in a physician’s practice—let alone standing in an aisle at a local pharmacy—the way my kids and I did after our jabs. At the same time, due to a history of severe allergic reactions to drugs and vaccine components, the risk of an adverse reaction is higher than average for this patient.
Consultations with her various specialists resulted in a consensus that the Pfizer product is the only recommended COVID-19 vaccine for her.
Thus far, none of her providers has been able to offer access to a prescribed dose of COVID-19 vaccine during a routine visit. Internet-savvy family members continue searching for a solution that will accommodate her specific needs with no luck to date.
The patient’s state of residence now offers at-home vaccinations for those who are homebound. Unfortunately, the program sends its providers out with the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine only. According to the toll-free hotline, there are no exceptions unless the patient is under 17 years old.
This patient, though unable leave home for a shot, cannot take advantage of her state’s offering for housebound residents. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 6% of U.S. seniors were completely or mostly homebound as of 2015.
Without a doubt, American wealth and power has provided a tremendous benefit to average citizens who’ve been amongst the earliest to access life-saving vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Public health, however, relies upon the breadth of its network to protect every resident. Many of our most vulnerable are still waiting as vaccines near expiration dates in medical center freezers.
Evidence of widespread vaccine hesitancy proves we must keep working to remove barriers to access for those willing, yet unable, to be vaccinated in currently available settings. Lives—and our loved ones—depend upon it.