CDC Provides New Guidance on COVID Vaccine Needs of Homebound Patients

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has been urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC0 to recognize the special COVID-19 vaccine needs of homebound individuals and we are pleased to report that this has happened. New guidance from the CDC covers training of staff to deliver the vaccine, vaccine administration, safe storage of the vaccine, and pre-vaccination planning for the vaccination of homebound patients.

While this recognition is significant, the CDC has yet to address how home care companies access vaccines for purposes of administration to homebound individuals. Last week, NAHC President William A. Dombi wrote to new CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, to urge action on getting vaccines to home care agencies so their homebound patients may receive the vaccine in a timely manner.

The 12 million Americans who are homebound and receive care from home health agencies, home care providers, and hospices are not capable of travelling to a local or state health department, a mass immunization site, or the local pharmacy to receive vaccination. This large population of America’s most vulnerable need to the vaccine to come to them or they will likely not receive it.

These Americans and their families and loved ones would helped enormously if the CDC could address  the essential issue as to how home care providers can access the vaccine for their patients.. We recognize that vaccine access is a need that goes well beyond homebound patients. Still, the known action to date by the CDC and state officials does not appear to consider this population at all. The recent expansions of access through pharmacies and mass immunization sites is a great improvement in vaccine access, but it does not help the 12 million homebound patients, virtually all of whom fall into a high priority classification.

More than 90 percent of home care and hospice providers are freestanding and not a part of the health systems that have received a vaccine supply. Those facilities have used vaccines for their inpatients and health care staff. Similarly, the vaccines provided to nursing home residents through the CDC partnership with Walgreens and CVC does not go to homebound patients.

NAHC represents most of the companies that provide health care in the home and we stand ready to work with the CDC is developing a viable plan of action to get America’s homebound population vaccinated. We worked extensively with the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and CDC in the distribution of the BINAX rapid tests in home care, the administration of infused therapeutics, and the prioritization of vaccines to home care staff. NAHC and HHS should consider us constructive partners in the vaccine administration, too.

NAHC is not insisting that homebound patients get special access. Rather, we are urging CDC to never allow these Americans to be forgotten. To effectively provide vaccinations to the homebound may require direct supply to the home care and hospice health care companies that care for these patients on a daily basis. There may be other options in administering the vaccine, but it is apparent it is necessary to develop a plan to make it happen. NAHC is ready to participate in developing that plan as we bring a knowledge and experience base that can be very helpful. Our members tell us that patients and their families are asking how and when the homebound population will gain access to the vaccine. We should at least be able to tell them that such a plan is in development.

NAHC has been in contact with CDC to ensure homebound patients receive fair access to the COVID vaccine and the enormous competencies of home health, home care, and hospice providers are tapped to make that effort a complete success. NAHC will continue to engage with the CDC on this matter and keep readers updated in NAHC Report and the Private Duty Source.