Bay Area's homebound senior patients, caregivers struggle to access vaccines

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As counties move forward on widening vaccine eligibility, many elderly homebound patients have been unable to receive a dose despite being eligible due to their age.

That's according to Dr. Carla Perissinotto, the Associate Chief of Geriatric Clinical Programs at UCSF.

She has about 200 patients who are unable to leave their homes due to their medical conditions. None of them have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Every week we keep getting told, 'no, there's not enough vaccines.' Our patients have just been devastated because we've been telling them it's coming," said Perissinotto.

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She said when she does get doses of the vaccine, her team is ready for the complicated process of thawing the vials and rapidly distributing the doses throughout the city in her patient's homes.

"My colleagues and I put together a protocol and really mapped out the details of how do we actually implement this to have it done at home from the time of pick up to how many patients we can have each day," she said.

She also said many of her patients have informal family caregivers who are not licensed medical professionals, yet provide necessary care.

Under California's eligibility guidelines, caregivers are eligible for a vaccine though different counties require different types of proof.

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In San Francisco, caregivers can fill out an attestation form, detailing their position.

Perissinotto some counties also require a physician's note, though she's known some caregivers who have had trouble with the process.

"I've had many physicians be asked by their patients to write letters explaining 'I'm the caregiver for X person that's older and essentially I'm a healthcare worker and they've gone to vaccination sites and been declined and turned down."

She says she hopes she might be able to get doses for the caregivers as well as her patients.

"What would make the most sense is vaccinate the caregivers alongside the patients," she said.

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