HOUSTON (April 15, 2021) — For John Cox Jr., getting out of bed is one of the hardest things to do in a day, the 45-year-old has to be physically carried by his caregiver to be moved around. So when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, making a trip to a large stadium vaccination site or other healthcare location—it’s nearly impossible.
Fortunately, Cox is a patient in Harris Health System’s House Call Service, a dedicated program of doctors and nurses that make home visits to bedridden patients. The service recently completed its 108 fully COVID vaccinated patient visit—meaning patients received both doses. Harris Health also vaccinates primary caregivers living in a patient’s home. By inoculating the caregiver, the patient is given an extra layer of protection against the virus, says Christy Chukwu, senior operations manager, House Call Service, Harris Health.
“A lot of our patients may have difficulty getting to and from our clinics or they’re just unable to make it, so we’re partnering with our Harris Health Emergency Services Department and our community vaccination team—Troubleshooters—to bring vaccines to them,” she says.
The home vaccination program began February 23 and will continue until all 300+ current qualifying patients are vaccinated. Vaccines are prepared daily at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and staff administer vaccines from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The team averages eight home visits a day.
“If I can get my shot, everyone else should get it too,” Cox says. “I want to show everyone that it’s safe and can help you.”
Carmen Torres is unable to get out of bed, so when Harris Health called her daughter and caregiver to schedule a vaccination visit, the family was excited.
“I can’t tell you what a relief it is to get my mother vaccinated,” says Ana Pacheco. “I was so worried that we wouldn’t get her vaccinated because we can’t go out so easily.”
The team of a nurse practitioner, a licensed vocational nurse, emergency medical technician and driver perform a full-health screening and get informed consent prior to the vaccination. For 86-year-old Torres, getting her shot was an easy decision.
“I just put my trust in God and the professional hands of these good people,” she says. “I feel happy and safe now.”
Maria De La Cruz, manager, Care Integration, Population Health for Harris Health, is glad to hear such positive reaction to Harris Health’s enhanced vaccination efforts. Already, Harris Health has administered more than 124,000 vaccine doses to patients and staff since mid-December.
“We want to ensure everyone who wants a vaccine has a chance to get this life-saving medicine,” she adds.
Harris Health currently has nearly 290,000 unique patients, many who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the next few months. Additionally, staff and medical partners are being vaccinated.
Harris Health’s House Call Service provides medical and primary care to adult patients 18 years and older who are homebound, need assistance with management of chronic disease and/or need assistance with management of palliative symptoms.
“Our mission is to prevent unnecessary suffering, improve health and quality of life and prevent frequent visits to the emergency room and avoidable hospital admissions,” Chukwu says.
House call staff focuses on older patients providing geriatric and palliative care to help patients manage symptoms improve quality of life during serious illness. Additionally, the program attends to patients needing family medicine care to provide comprehensive healthcare management to adults with complex medical problems.