The plan to get COVID-19 vaccine to people in independent-living facilities

Posted at 10:09 AM, Feb 12, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) are continuing efforts to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals at independent-living facilities (ILFs).

The program, now in its second week, is using a mobile vaccination unit to visit estimated 50-such facilities. Officials said it had split the ILFs into three tiers in order of priority:

  • The first tier was for those living in government housing
  • The second for those on Medicare and Medicaid
  • The third for those with adequate insurance

Wednesday, the mobile unit was at Heritage Oaks Senior Living vaccinating dozens of residents and staff members.

Among the residents receiving the vaccine was Carol Steele, who has lived at the facility for three years.

"Just very thankful," said Steele shortly after receiving her first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine. "This is one worry off my plate."

Steele said the past 11 months of the pandemic had been difficult as she had been sequestering to avoid contact with others and it was a big relief to finally get the vaccine.

"We've been waiting for this for a while. I feel very fortunate, also, that we're in a facility like this, because, I believe, that we've gotten extra special attention in getting this as a group and it's been a very easy process. You hear a lot of people having difficulty getting to places, waiting online, having a lot of difficulty with it," said Steele, who added she is looking forward to being able to socialize again. "Can't wait to hug and kiss my grandkids and relate with my friends and family."

The facility's executive director, Tyler Alexander, said they shut down "pretty hard" on March 13, 2020, in order to protect their roughly 110 residents and 33 staff members and added that throughout the pandemic only three staff were infected, but no residents.

"The residents sacrificed a lot, the associates sacrificed a lot, socially, and the family members, too," said Alexander. "It took all three of the entities to come together to be able to realize the sacrifices that we're making by not being together will allow us to come together down the road."

As of Wednesday, RHHD's Iesha Williams, the registered nurse in charge of the mobile vaccination clinics said that they had vaccinated approximately 1,200 people in the ILFs. She said the goal of the program is to vaccinate those who cannot get to the mass vaccination events happening in Richmond and Henrico.

"Most of the elderly don't have driver's license, so they're no longer driving, they may not have anyone to transport them back and forth. So we'll bring in our services to them," said Williams.

She said, for the time being, they are setting up the clinics inside of the facilities they are visiting. But, when the weather is nicer, she said the van that they are transporting the supplies in can also serve as a mobile vaccination unit serving two people at a time.

"Some of these facilities may not necessarily have the adequate space so that we can be social distancing and following the CDC guidelines," said added Williams. "So, in that situation, then we will use the mobile van because we have the opportunity to set up outside. We have monitoring outside."