Betsy Canino, chief of clinical services at the PACE Organization of Rhode Island, discusses PACE-RI’s efforts to administer COVID-19 vaccines to homebound people in Woonsocket, Westerly and the East Bay area.
PBN: When did PACE-RI begin vaccinating homebound patients, and what other organizations are you working with?
CANINO: The R.I. Department of Health contracted with PACE-RI, Alert Ambulance Service and MedTech Ambulance Service to administer vaccines to homebound patients in R.I. We began getting shots in arms on March 20, prioritizing based on age and residence in high-density communities.
PBN: How many vaccines has PACE-RI administered so far, and how many total do you expect to give?
CANINO: Collectively, the three entities have administered 915 COVID vaccines so far and we anticipate giving at least 450 more over the coming weeks. People can still sign up by going to http://bit.ly/homeboundvax or by calling 2-1-1.
PBN: What has the response been to this service?
CANINO: The response has been wonderful. These homebound individuals and caregivers are relieved, families are grateful and the staff administering the shots are proud to be part of the effort to end the pandemic. The first shot we gave was to a 93-year-old nun in East Providence and she was elated that she still mattered and PACE was there to help her.
PBN: What makes a person eligible for a homebound vaccine? Do they need to be a member of PACE-RI to receive a shot from its staff?
CANINO: Anyone who is homebound in Rhode Island can sign up and get a shot with the state. Primary care physicians can also sign up their patients who are homebound to be vaccinated through this program. PACE-RI views this as an extension of our mission to help frail elders remain safe at home in the community and are glad to be part of the effort.
PBN: How is PACE-RI keeping up with this extra demand on its providers?
CANINO: Our providers (doctors, nurses, CNAs [certified nursing assistants], social workers, therapists and others) have been amazing during the pandemic. They have been traveling to participants’ homes in the community to keep them healthy and we have had very low COVID infection rates as a result.
We are now at the point where most of our participants are vaccinated and we can start taking on additional duties. We have a core staff of callers and organizers who have added this work onto their roles here. In addition, some nurses and nurse practitioners are working extra on the weekends and we brought back some former employees to pitch in.
I could not be more proud of the job this team has done to get everyone their shots. The extra effort is the right thing to do to protect homebound individuals and do our part to slow the rate of new infections.
Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.
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