VA delivers COVID vaccines to homebound and rural Texas Veterans
William Harris hasn’t left his home in years due to a severe case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The “five tour” Vietnam War Veteran said he was grateful for the care he received from the West Texas VA home base primary care (HBPC) program, but admitted that the fear of what a COVID-19 infection would mean for his health further isolated him from the small community he formed on the outskirts of Midland, Texas.
He said he wanted the vaccine but had no way of leaving his home to get it.
Providing access to the COVID-19 vaccine for homebound and rural Veterans who can sometimes live hundreds of miles from the nearest medical facility is a priority for VA. Since the beginning of 2021, VA has flown vaccines to remote areas in Alaska and created drive-thru clinics across the country to get the life-saving shot to as many Veterans as possible.
This sense of innovation and urgency has made its way to rural West Texas, too.
“The majority of the [Veteran] population we have on the HBPC program… are at high risk of catching the COVID virus,” said case manager Ricardo Torrez. “They shouldn’t feel left out [in getting the vaccine] if they can’t get to a clinic.”
On March 18, armed with the one-shot Janssen vaccine and temperature-controlled cases, Torrez and his fellow HBPC coordinators were able to deliver the shots directly to Harris and other Veterans who couldn’t leave their rural homes.
“Being part of something like that – being able to deliver care in the [Veteran’s] home – means a lot to me,” Torrez said.
After Torrez administered the vaccine, he sat down with Harris to talk about their military service. Harris shared of few stories from his three years in Vietnam and Torrez mentioned his own Marine Corps experience. When the 15-minute observation period was over, Torrez handed Harris his CDC vaccination card.