Family doctors willing to give COVID-19 vaccine to homebound patients, but plans still being determined

TORONTO — With some people over the age of 80 and unable to visit a mass vaccination clinic, there are family doctors willing to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to their doorstep, but at least one city in Ontario says plans for specific segments of the population are still being figured out.

The City of Toronto said its clinics are just one piece of the effort and Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 are not really amenable to immunizing people at home because of storage and transportation requirements.

“Plans for specific segments of the population (e.g. homebound seniors) are still being determined. Details will be shared as soon as they become available,” said a spokesperson in an email to CTV News Toronto on Monday.

Toronto family physician Dr. Anna Holland is one doctor who said she willing to bring the vaccine directly to patients. She managed to do it with the flu shot in the fall, she said.

“I did take the flu shot to their home in a safe way with PPE and with an emergency kit,” said Holland. “And many other doctors did that too.”

Holland has up to 10 homebound patients and says it’s time to get a handle on reaching this population.

“This is going to take an all hands on deck approach and for those who are most vulnerable, we may need to think creatively and figure out how we access those patients.”

Access is a question for people like Sharon Edwards. Her 86-year-old dad in Peel Region is undecided about getting the shot and has mobility issues.

“Right now he would fall into the category of people left out because we would not be willing to take him to a vaccination site,” said Edwards. “There’s an issue of his ability to endure long lines or standing.”

With Ontario’s public health units now in the drivers seat for rollouts, it’s not immediately clear how the shot may be given in a home.

Dr. Camille Lemieux is the Chief of Family Medicine with University Health Network. She said she has been involved in the planning of vaccinations with Toronto Public Health and has been administering vaccines in long-term care homes and congregate settings.

Lemieux said another big issue reaching people homebound, she said, is lack of supply.

“Mid-view absolutely, should be going into peoples’ homes, who cannot leave their home absolutely,” she said. “This is going to have to happen in layers, as we go forward, as we, first of all, we get vaccines and we make sure we have enough vaccines to be able to get to priority over 80-year-olds.”

Lemieux said many regions in the province are looking at strategies to reach vulnerable people at home.

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