By JOSEPH B. NADEAU
WOONSOCKET — Tonya Gross has had a hard time getting around during the COVID-19 pandemic due to health conditions, but she still wanted to get vaccinated.
And on Wednesday, Tonya got her shot – a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – with the help of PACE-RI’s Lucy Rego, a licensed practical nurse who has been conducting home vaccinations in the area.
Rego showed up at Gross’s apartment on Knight Street for a house call Wednesday morning to administer her dose of the vaccine right at the kitchen table.
The procedure was the same as it would have been if Tonya had traveled to a vaccination clinic, and Rego checked her first for any symptoms of COVID-19 and other health concerns before administering the shot while completing all the required paperwork.
Tonya had been interested in getting the shot because of health problems such as COPD, but actually traveling to a clinic would have been a problem, she explained.
“The only times I go out is for food shopping or doctor’s appointments,” Tonya said.
Tonya’s doctor had even recommended she get vaccinated, so when PACE called to say that they could help out with a home visit, she agreed immediately.
“I guess I was on their list,” Tonya said.
PACE has been doing home visits and vaccinations in its Woonsocket and East Bay service areas in a partnership with Alert Ambulance and Med Tech Ambulance organized by the Rhode Island Department of Health, according to Martin Gallogly, PACE communications director.
PACE clinical staff have vaccinated 130 homebound people since the project began three weeks ago, with a target of assisting 2,000 homebound residents seeking vaccinations overall, Gallogly noted.
With the PACE day center in Woonsocket open to participant visits and warmer weather on tap, Gallogly said the agency’s clinic staff plans to ensure all those visiting will be able to do so safely – and that includes vaccinations for those now eligible who are still at home.
After giving Tonya her shot, Rego monitored her for any sign of an allergic reaction, as is done at in-person clinics, and advised her about the side effects, such as a sore arm or flu-like symptoms that she might experience for a short time after her vaccination.
Rego has given about 40 of the at-home shots administered by PACE. All have gone well without any serious side effects or reactions, she said, noting that she carries a supply of Epinephrine, an anti-inflammatory medication that stops reactions, in case any serious symptoms do occur.
Fortunately, she hasn’t had to deal with any serious reactions since she began administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I haven’t had one person who had a reaction, and PACE has done over 400 vaccinations at this point,” Rego explained.
In addition to the convenience of getting the shot at home, Tonya also doesn’t have to schedule a second appointment due to receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Rego noted.
“It’s just one shot, and a lot of people are excited about that,” Rego said.
The other shots being distributed in Rhode Island are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Pfizer requires a second dose after three weeks and Moderna a second dose after four weeks.
PACE-RI is a health plan assisting adults 55 and older who have chronic health needs but want to remain living at home, according to the organization. PACE-RI was founded in 2005 and currently provides both insurance and medical care, as well as a range of health and social services, such as adult daycare, transportation and meals to its clients.
The comprehensive approach to assistance allows PACE-RI’s medically complex participants to remain at home for more than 4 years on average, according to the organization. PACE-RI serves all of Rhode Island, except Block Island and Prudence Island. For more information, visit www.pace-ri.org.
Follow Joseph Nadeau on Twitter @JNad75