“It Gave Them Back Their Lives”: Vaccinating the Homebound in Bucks County
For some county residents who wanted a COVID-19 vaccine, getting to a clinic simply wasn’t an option. So, the Bucks County Health Department decided to bring the shots to them.
The Bucks County Commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting paid tribute to the department’s Homebound Vaccination Strike Teams, made up of 18 medical volunteers and four county employees.
“I’m really proud of the work put together by our health department, our emergency management agencies, our rescue squads and AMI, the company we hired to help give vaccines,” said Commissioner Bob Harvie.
Elizabeth V. Ithier, 70, of Bristol Township, said being able to get the vaccine at her home helped her regain a connection to her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
“I missed having my family hug me and kiss me,” Ithier, who uses a wheelchair, said. “I’m limited in movement so I can’t do hugging…you don’t realize how much you miss those things…how important those things are until they’re taken away from you.”
Ithier is one of 231 Bucks residents vaccinated by the strike teams, which delivered the lifesaving shots earlier this year directly to the county’s most vulnerable residents – those who are unable to leave their homes.
“I believe that the homebound part of this whole adventure of COVID was probably one of the most important things that we did,” said Jeryl Degideo, Bucks County Health Department Emergency Planner. “They had no idea how they were going to get their COVID shots. They thought they would be shut in for the rest of their lives.”
The strike teams served homebound residents from Milford Square to Bensalem, traveling a total of 1,887 miles, roughly the distance from Bucks County to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Degideo said the program “gave them back their lives,” noting that the teams saw smiles, tears of joy and even inspired some family members of the homebound to get vaccinated as well.
Aside from the on-the-road team, the program made an estimated 2,000 phone calls in an effort to register every person who previously contacted the county directly or had their name submitted to the county for homebound vaccination.
“We really strongly encourage you to get a vaccine if you haven’t and you’re eligible,” Harvie said. “The county is still operating clinics, which are open to anybody, no appointment necessary, at Neshaminy Mall and on 263 in Warwick Square.”
The county’s homebound vaccination program wrapped up in July, but if residents still need the service, they can call the health department at 215-345-3318.
Residents may contact county-run vaccination sites and ask to have the shot administered in their car. For those unable to drive, contact the Bucks County Transport for possible options. Other resources are also available for those looking to get the vaccine.