AUSTIN, Texas — Two Austin Public Health medical workers cheerfully greeted Pam Morgan as she sat on the front porch outside her East Austin home Monday morning.
It was a visit Pam Morgan waited months for.
"We will be giving you the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It's a one-shot dose," said the nurse and nursing assistant before giving the vaccine to Morgan.
Morgan said she wasn't nervous. She had actually searched for the COVID-19 shot herself – for a while.
"I'm scared. You know, I'm scared to get sick. A lot of our friends have passed away from the COVID," Morgan said.
So when Morgan, a Meals on Wheels client, heard she could get vaccinated without leaving her home, she got excited and asked about the option right away.
"I'm just happy that I got it today," Morgan said.
As Austin Public Health expands its mobile vaccination program, it's partnering with Meals on Wheels Central Texas. For the next five weeks, the two agencies will visit Meals on Wheels clients at their homes and administer vaccines. The clients are considered older and medically vulnerable.
"Because the majority of our clients who are on our services are homebound, have a difficult time getting out there, getting the vaccine, standing in lines ... Because they're immunocompromised, they're fearful of getting out there and getting the vaccine," said Linda Perez, the vice president of client services for Meals on Wheels Central Texas. "There are several of them that haven't even gone anywhere, haven't gone to the grocery store. They're still using a lot of those services. So, until they get vaccinated, they feel like, 'Then I can start venturing out.'"
On Monday, APH teams of two visited 66 clients in Central Austin. Next week, APH teams plan to visit Meals on Wheels clients in North Austin.
"We realized that we needed to provide multiple options for individuals to receive the vaccine. So although many individuals can receive the vaccine at our larger hubs, for those who are homebound or aren't able to leave the home – especially our homebound seniors – we needed to make sure that we made a vaccine available for them as well," said Stephanie Helfman, a program manager for APH.
Prior to this partnership, APH used its mobile vaccine program for clients at public housing complexes. Between 300 to 400 vaccine doses are reserved for Meals on Wheels clients weekly.
APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said the ultimate goal is to also vaccinate others in the households who are eligible.
"We want to be able to, if there [are] multigenerational homes as we're expanding and have more vaccine, then we make appointments for several people. So it may be, you know, maybe to grandma and it may be the mom and her kids but they're adult kids. And so, we're able to do multiple people in that home setting. And so, that works very well, especially when we have people that have disabilities, etc.," Hayden-Howard said.
But a spouse or caregiver can already receive a shot if they fall within the state's 1A, 1B or 1C categories.
In the meantime, Morgan said she thinks everybody should get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"It's important because [it helps] to protect others and protect yourself," Morgan said.
Morgan turns 73 at the end of this week and she said getting the vaccine is the best birthday present she could give herself.
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