UTMB nurses using time off to vaccinate COVID-19 patients who can't leave their homes

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a challenge for homebound patients, but UTMB Health is making that easier.

Doctors and nurses are volunteering their time to make sure those who can't leave their homes get their dose of the vaccine.

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So far, UTMB doctors and nurses have fully vaccinated 90 homebound patients in Galveston and started vaccinating 37 more on Monday. Patients like Theresa Grice said they've gotten to know the doctors and nurses that visit. In fact, she said she loves them.

So when nurse practitioners Zach Carson and Jessica Den Herder arrived to her home with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Grice was glad to see them.

"I've been waiting for you guys," she said as she greeted the two on Monday.

"People think that just because they're homebound, they're not exposed, but you have to remember, we're coming into their homes," said Carson. "They have caregivers, grandkids, kids, and they are being exposed. So, we have to keep them safe."

Carson and Den Herder travel from home to home.

The concept for the "homebound vaccine" came from two other nurse practitioners named Tammie Michael and Jennifer Young. Once they heard UTMB was getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the two immediately thought of their patients who can't leave their homes.

"What about our vulnerable population? What about our patients that can't get to the clinics? That can't get to the vaccine hubs or the drive-thru?" wondered Michael.

The project took a lot of work and it's all being executed during the nurses and doctors' time off.

"We're still doing our normal job," said Young. "We're just seeing more [and] doing more on other days, working longer hours on our other days so we can accommodate this."

Plus, patients aren't just administered a shot. As a "Thank you," patients are given a treats, such as a lollipops, breakfast tacos and even muffins to help keep spirits high.

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"It was a patient of ours who said, 'You're going to give us a shot and not give us a lollipop?'" said Den Herder.

"I think the community is ready for this, and it's exciting, and our homebound patients need this a lot," said Carson.

For patients like Grice, the nurses and doctors making the visit, are true heroes.

"I appreciate it, and I love you all very much for coming out and taking the time," said Grice.

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