Community paramedics to provide in-home vaccines
To make sure that all eligible people in the county are properly inoculated against the coronavirus, the community paramedic program is partnering with the health department and SCUSA to provide in-home COVID-19 vaccines to people who, for whatever reason, lack transportation to come to vaccination sites, like the drive-through clinic at the Stanly County Commons.
“There are people who are homebound and disabled and unable to go to the vaccination sites to get vaccinated,” said Sgt. Mike Campbell, community paramedic field training officer, who will be providing vaccines along with the four other community paramedics. They had previously been involved with testing individuals in congregate care facilities.
The paramedics will be properly equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment before entering the homes.
“Our goal is to make COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all, especially as more vaccines become available,” said Wendy Growcock, public health specialist with the health department. “The Stanly County Community Paramedics provide a way for our vulnerable, homebound residents to protect themselves from the virus. We appreciate their willingness to partner in this effort.”
In the works since late December, when vaccines first started being distributed throughout the state, the community paramedics have spent the past few weeks learning about the vaccination process and assisting the health department in administering vaccines to the public.
“We wanted our community paramedics to be trained in a controlled environment before getting them out in the field,” said Campbell, who received his second vaccine shot on Thursday.
SCUSA and the Emergency Management team are working to determine which individuals actually need the service (they identify people who have called the coronavirus hotline with transportation needs) before sending them to the paramedics, who schedule the appointments.
“It’s not something that you can necessarily request to have done in your home,” Campbell said.
Since the vaccine doses are only viable for up to six hours after they’re out of the freezer, the paramedics “have to be as efficient as we can” in making sure people get properly inoculated within the proper time frame. The paramedics plan to administer both first and second doses.
Aside from individual homes, Campbell said he expects the paramedics will also provide vaccines to people inside group homes and living facilities not associated with nursing homes. (CVS and Walgreens, through a Pharmacy Partnership Program with DHHS, are tasked with administering the vaccine to residents and staff at nursing homes and adult congregate living facilities).
The extra job responsibility won’t interfere with the paramedics’ main role of responding to opioid overdose calls, Campbell said. If a paramedic gets tied up administering vaccines, there are reserve community paramedics on each shift who could respond to overdose calls.
“That was part of our pre-planning process to make sure that we had the right people in the right places so nobody went without the services that they need,” Campbell said.
The paramedics are scheduled to begin administering the vaccines to people at their homes on Monday.
“We want to make sure we have enough vaccine to vaccinate everybody who’s eligible,” he said.
The community paramedic program has been in operation since May 2019 and is part of Stanly County EMS. The program was the first of its kind in the state to directly focus on opioid overdoses.
While similar paramedic programs in the state are helping with vaccine distribution, Campbell isn’t aware of any other CP program that is also performing in-home vaccinations.