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Doses on Demand program brings COVID-19 vaccines to residents' homes

The sign for Richmond City Health District outside its building.
According to the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, all types of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are available through the Doses on Demand program. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Residents of Richmond and Henrico County can access free COVID-19 vaccines from the comfort of their homes. The project, called Doses on Demand, is part of the Richmond-Henrico Health District’s strategy to ensure all residents can access the vaccine.

According to Cat Long, public information officer for the health district, all types of COVID vaccines and booster shots are available through the program.

“We could do different vaccines all at the same time. We can do a vaccine for a six-year-old who's about to start school and their grandmother's booster, or second booster, at the same time,” Long said.

The health district has been offering mobile vaccine clinics since the beginning of the pandemic, and last year it started bringing them directly to people who said they have difficulty leaving their homes. In March, the program expanded to offer its at-home services to all residents of both localities.

Long said a large portion of the people utilizing the program are elderly, lack transportation or are living with disabilities that make it difficult for them to leave their homes.

“Oftentimes, for people who have limited mobility or disabilities or people with developmental disabilities, a typical clinic space might be really uncomfortable,” Long said. “We really want to make sure that folks in our community are able to get COVID-19 vaccines, no matter what their level of ability is, or no matter what their health or mental condition is. Because everybody deserves to be protected from COVID-19.”

According to data analyzed by Dr. Andrew Houtenville, research director of the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, about 400,000 Virginians with a disability said they have difficulty living independently or doing errands  — such as going to the doctor’s office — on their own.

Houtenville — who is researching vaccination rates among people with disabilities for the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research — said “people with disabilities are slightly less likely to receive [the] vaccine."

As of mid-June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 90% of people 18 years and older in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Houtenville estimated 83% of adults younger than 65 who are living with disabilities have received at least one shot. 

Houtenville said the importance of efforts like Doses on Demand is heightened because certain disabilities make people more susceptible to catching the virus. Despite a surge in community action at the beginning of the pandemic, Houtenville said his research has shown support for people with disabilities has dwindled.

“[At] the beginning of vaccine availability, there was very much this all-hands-on-deck [feeling] — neighbors, family members getting appointments,” Houtenville said. “The thing that we found when it came to getting the boosters is that that kind of support was no longer there.”

The Doses on Demand program, though, doesn’t have an expiration date.

“As long as people are calling us to request us to vaccinate them in their homes, we'll be able to offer that service,” Long said. “Typically, we're able to get somebody scheduled within two to three weeks.”

To sign up for a Doses on Demand appointment, call the program hotline at (804) 205-3501.