Southwest Florida home health company works to vaccinate homebound seniors

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Homebound senior being vaccinated by a BrightStar Care worker. Credit: WINK News

Homebound seniors have run into major issues trying to get vaccinated, but after months working tirelessly every day to get doses of the vaccine for patients, a Southwest Florida home health company finally got its hands on the shots.

This is a critical need that many say has been overlooked. People who have mobility issues or those who are immunocompromised cannot safely leave the house, and many more cannot figure out the state’s complicated system to book an appointment. So BrightStar Care is making it easy, not only for their patients, but for others, too.

One woman, Melanie O’Dea, has a blood disorder that causes a weak immune system. She just got the shot Tuesday after months of waiting.

“I feel great right now, I’m very excited!” O’Dea said. “I’m so glad to get the vaccine because I’ve been waiting for a while. When I got the call that I could actually get the vaccine at my home, I was so excited that I didn’t have to be going out into a public situation again, or waiting in line and exposing myself to people, you know, that might be compromised.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that homebound seniors can send an email and emergency management will call back, but that hasn’t been without issues.

BrightStar Care says putting seniors first means including all seniors: those who are not just physically bound at home, but those who have Alzheimer’s or are severely immuno-compromised and don’t have the stamina to figure out the system or stand in line. The vice president of the company. Susan Nimnuan, says it’s been a fight since the pandemic started to get these seniors Personal Protective Equipment and testing. They were often forgotten about, and she didn’t want the same thing to happen with the vaccine.

“We have been trying to work tirelessly the past three-and-a-half months now, trying to get [DeSantis’] attention,” Nimnuan said. “We brought not just a problem to the table. but a solution. You know, we have nurses, we have dedicated phone lines, we’re registering the homebound community and the in-home care industry, the patients and the caregivers, by telephone. They’re not dealing with the internet, they’re not dealing with an answering service. They’re nine times out of ten getting me, answering their questions, getting them registered.”

Nimnuan registered the company with Florida SHOTS, the state’s way of granting permission to health care providers who want to administer the shot. They’re able to track where the vaccine goes from there. After a lot of work, she finally got doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Lee County last week and immediately started the process.

In just three days, BrightStar Care has vaccinated more than 300 seniors, and plans to do a lot more.

People can email to register for shots or for more information, according to the governor’s announcement. Residents can also reach the state’s COVID-19 Call Center at (866) 779-6121 for assistance. If you want to receive the vaccine through BrightStar Care, Susan Nimnuan can be called at (239) 300-1884.

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