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VCU Health conducts 200th in-home COVID-19 vaccination

The health system is meeting vulnerable patients where they are, in the ways that work best for them.

Charlotte Bundy, 86, receives her COVID-19 vaccination in her home from Dr. Kathryn Brennan. Charlotte Bundy, 86, receives her COVID-19 vaccination at home from Dr. Kathryn Brennan. Ms. Bundy's mobility and vision issues make it difficult for her to travel for her vaccination. (Photo: Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Approximately 325 VCU Health patients are home-bound and unable to get to their appointments. These individuals are often elderly, battling diseases like dementia, or living with disabilities that make it difficult to travel to a clinic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it ushered in an era of isolation and extreme risk for these already-vulnerable patients. When the COVID-19 vaccines became available, it gave them hope. 

Since January, VCU Health has been providing COVID-19 vaccines to all interested, qualifying home-bound patients and their caregivers as part of our Home Based Primary Care program. As of March 31, we have administered 200 vaccines to people who would have otherwise been unable to get them.

As one of the only health systems in the Richmond area providing in-home vaccinations, our team of geriatricians, nurses, social workers and pharmacists are driving to vulnerable patients’ homes to make sure they aren’t left behind in the race to vaccinate.

Here Dr. Kathryn Brennan, a geriatrician who leads the in-home vaccinations for VCU Health, answers questions about the effort.

Dr. Kathryn BrennanHow and why is VCU Health reaching people in their homes?

We are vaccinating VCU Health patients who are enrolled in our Home Based Primary Care program.  VCU Health made it a priority to ensure that our eligible home-bound patients had access to COVID-19 vaccines when they became available.

The Home Based Primary Care program started in 1984, and we serve approximately 325 patients in the greater Richmond area. We function as a “doctor’s office on wheels” for home-bound adult patients who find it challenging to come into clinic to receive primary care.

Our team consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, R.N.s, social workers and a pharmacist. Our goal is to deliver comprehensive, compassionate care to our medically complex patients in order to keep them healthy at home and allow them to age successfully in place. Our practice also participates in Medicare’s “Independence at Home Demonstration.”

Who is benefitting from the in-home vaccinations?

Our patient population is among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The majority of our patients are over 65 and almost all have comorbidities that put them at risk if they were to contract COVID-19. Many would also be physically unable to get to a clinic or other mass vaccination site due to functional limitations. On top of that, many have personal care aides, home health nurses and caregivers in their homes that might put them at risk for exposure to the virus. 

How successful has the in-home vaccination program been?

We began vaccinating our patients in their homes in January 2021 and were able to vaccinate over 150 people in a week and a half. As of March 31, 2021, we have vaccinated over 200 patients and several caregivers who qualified under Virginia eligibility guidelines, and we have not wasted a single dose. 

What is it you enjoy about bringing medical care and vaccinations directly to your patients — like Ms. Bundy — where they are?

I love my job. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to see my patients in their home. When a patient invites me into their home, I feel like it gives me a window into their life. It helps me better understand social and environmental factors that may be impacting their health in a way that might not be evident had I been seeing them in a traditional office setting. 

This year has been challenging for all of us, but it has been such a rewarding experience to be able to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients. I have had some patients cry with joy and relief.  Many of them worried they might never have access to the vaccine and now they are looking forward to visits with their grandchildren. 

To learn more about VCU Health’s vaccinations, and to see if you or a loved one are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit our COVID-19 vaccine news site.

To see if you or a loved one is eligible for our home care services for seniors, please visit our Home Based Primary Care program.