Albert Garza anxiously waited outside his home in Southeast Dallas for a team of Dallas Fire and Rescue officers to arrive Monday morning with his dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That’s all I’m waiting to get my vaccine and then I go to work,” said Garza.
The 75-year-old, dressed in a bright blue Tom & Jerry shirt and a cap, sayshe’s worked at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas as a cleaner for 30 years.
Now as a retiree, he goes in when he needs “fresh air,” but since the pandemic he hasn’t left home and is afraid to.
“The convention center has a lot of people. It’s dangerous,” Garza said. “I care more about myself.”
He’s one of 60 seniors who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday through the city of Dallas’ new in-home vaccine program.
The partnership between the City of Dallas and the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas (VNA) brings COVID-19 shots to homebound Dallas residents who can’t reach a vaccination site or hub or can’t leave their home due to health complications.
The program was set to begin last week, but hit complications when federal health officials paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to reported cases of blood clots. The original plan was to use Johnson & Johnson doses because the vaccine only requires one shot and thus one visit. Plus, the one-dose vaccine is easier to store. Now, the city is using the Moderna vaccine.
“Logistically, it’s a bit more of a challenge because of the temperature [the Moderna vaccine] has to be held at” Dallas Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Bret Stidham said. “But we’ll be back out again in four weeks with the Moderna — 28 days — and give that second shot.”
The Moderna shot, like the Pfizer vaccine, is offered in two doses.
The seniors who are getting vaccinated are part of the VNA’s Meals On Wheels program that delivers food to people who are at high risk or have underlying conditions. The program serves a total of 4,500 Dallas County residents.
With this new in-home vaccination initiative VNA’s job is to identify people and schedule Dallas Fire and Rescue teams to administer vaccines. They’ve already helped launch a similar programs in DeSoto and Duncanville.
“We have to remember that this is the most vulnerable population to COVID-19, so they were the first priority from a statewide situation to get the vaccine,” VNA President and CEO Katherine Krause said. “But in this situation, our homebound seniors have not had access to getting those shots.”
Dallas Fire Rescue officers are the ones actually going into homes and administering the shots. On Monday, there were six teams of two officers, each with 10 doses. Their goal is to distribute 500 doses by the end of the week.
Homebound Dallas residents, regardless of age, who have not received the vaccine and are not part of the Meals and Wheels program, can call 214-670-4636 to register for an in-home visit.
For everyone else, you can register for the COVID-19 vaccination online through Dallas County, or call 855-466-8639.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at [email protected]. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.