COLUMBIA, S.C. — Those who are homebound in South Carolina are the focus of a new project launched by DHEC.
The Vaccination Homebound Project will bring the life-saving shots to the homes of those who aren't able to get outside.
"It's really welcome news and an answered prayer for a lot of seniors in our state," said Andrew Boozer, Executive Director of Senior Resources.
What initially started as a pilot program in late February for Jasper and Hampton counties is now official for all of South Carolina.
The homebound pilot lasted two months. DHEC says 62 people were vaccinated in March and 53 in April.
During their efforts, the agency noticed a bigger need.
"A lot of the seniors that we serve have been waiting for this moment," said Boozer. "It's eliminating hurdles to a really high needs, vulnerable population that need this extra support."
Senior Resources serves meals to 1,000 home bound residents in Richland County every day.
This week, the agency is making phone calls to seniors to tell them about the program.
"They really struggle to get out. They struggle to wait in lines. They don't have the technology to necessarily book a vaccine early on in the vaccination process," said Boozer. "For seniors that are truly homebound and have a hard time getting out, they slip through the cracks of the process. This is filling that gap."
As the Vaccination Homebound Project begins, state advocates for residents with disabilities say we can't just rely on service providers to deliver this critical information.
"There is a breakdown of information that is being delivered to the disability community," said Tissot. "People who are unable to leave their homes right now they do not know about this program."
What can also be helpful in the future, Tissot says, is including voices of the disability population during planning stages before these types of programs begin.
"So that we can educate and make sure that people are aware of this program effectively," she explained. "Operators that are answering phones, they need to know how to communicate with people who may not be able to communicate as clearly as needed. So there's a lot of work that South Carolina has to do to make sure that we are fully inclusive to the disability community."
Ensuring all information is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Tissot added, will also make a tremendous difference in reaching more South Carolinians.
"They've got wonderful videos about vaccination programs but they are not closed captioning so you're missing the whole entire deaf community," said Tissot.
News 19 asked DHEC how they are working to reach members of our disability community who are homebound.
In a statement, the agency said: "Each of our four DHEC regions (Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee, Lowcountry) have outreach specialists who stay connected with local organizations and share important information like the homebound program information at the local level. Additionally, we've shared this information with the S.C. Department of Aging, S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs, South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, and others to help spread the word that this important vaccination opportunity is now available in all 46 counties."
To schedule an appointment with the Vaccination Homebound Project, call DHEC's Vaccine Information Line at 866-365-8110.
The line is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
The Vaccination Homebound Project will run through the end of the year.
For those getting the vaccine, Able SC is encouraging everyone to contact the FDA/CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at 1-800-822-7967. You can also sign up for the V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker to report any symptoms and give daily reports.
To learn more about safety and monitoring of these vaccines, including VAERS and V-Safe, click here.