Atrium Health Navicent is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents who are homebound.
Nurses with the Macon, Ga.-based health system started administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Thursday to individuals identified by the Area Agency on Aging and the Department of Public Health.
"As a health system, Atrium Health Navicent is working to bridge barriers to vaccine access in the communities we serve, ensuring the most vulnerable among us are able to receive protection against COVID-19," Atrium Health Navicent President and CEO Delvecchio Finley said in a statement. "By partnering to reach those in need, Atrium Health Navicent is working on the front line to slow the pandemic's spread."
Vaccinations will take place over the next two weeks in Baldwin, Bibb, Monroe and Peach counties. Even though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose, there will still be some logistics involved in making sure no doses are wasted as nurses travel between counties, the health system said. Each vial has five doses, and nurses only have two hours to administer those doses before they expire, the system said.
"It's a bit of a challenge, but our team has made plans to make the best use out of every single dose," Atrium Health Navicent Healthy Communities and Palliative Care Director Carol Babcock said in a statement.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said getting a vaccine is difficult for individuals who are homebound and hopes the partnership with Atrium Health Navicent allows more Georgians to have access to vaccines.
"We want to ensure that homebound individuals are not overlooked in the vaccination process, so this collaboration with Atrium Health Navicent demonstrates our collective ability to get the vaccine to vulnerable individuals in Georgia who need it most," Toomey said in a statement.
As the U.S. races to vaccinate the country against COVID-19, health systems, health departments and public officials are trying to find ways to do so equitably. In many cases, that has involved collaborating with local partners to identify and reach at-risk individuals and disadvantaged communities.
Those who are homebound are often a difficult population to reach. Most are elderly or have a severe illness or disability, meaning they've been eligible to receive the vaccines for months. Yet, trying to make it to a mass vaccination site can be a hurdle.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbot deployed the Texas National Guard to vaccinate seniors who are homebound, and, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 1,500 seniors who are homebound had been vaccinated by state strike teams by March 11.
Atrium Health Navicent, a health system in central and south Georgia, has more than 1,000 beds and offers care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region.