‘They’ve been ignored’: Caregivers frustrated as homebound Rhode Islanders are left unvaccinated

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As vaccine eligibility has been slowly expanding to more populations, one group is feeling left out. Homebound Rhode Islanders still aren’t vaccinated, and their loved ones are calling on the state to step up.

“It angers me. It really angers me,” said Elizabeth Hallenbeck of East Providence on watching more and more people get vaccinated in the state. “My parents are 94, my mom will be 95 on the 2nd of April, and they need to be vaccinated.”

Hallenbeck said her dad can’t even go to his doctor’s appointments.

“His main doctor will not let him go out of the house until he’s vaccinated,” she said. “They’ve been ignored. They are the most at risk of anybody.”

Her dad signed him and his wife up on the Rhode Island Department of Health’s form to request an in-home vaccination. They’ve since been awaiting a call or email that hasn’t come.

“Last week on Tuesday I was told they could have an answer for me in 48 hours, and when I called 72 hours later… I don’t know.”

Fatima DoVale of Riverside is in the same boat when it comes to her mom.

“She’s elderly, she’s 86 years old, she’s homebound and she has dementia. For us to take her out to get a vaccine is taxing on her because of the dementia she’ll get confused and it will take days for her to get back to normal.”

DoVale has also been asking the state for answers. She said when she called her local senior center, they told her there were no programs set up for homebound seniors.

“I’ve been contacting (the health department) as far as I can remember every week for the past couple of months. (They’re) telling me that they’re working on this, they’re working to get in contact with vendors that will come to the home and vaccinate… this has been going on for almost 2 months now,” DoVale said. “This population has to be taken care of. We shouldn’t be going into Phase 3 when they haven’t addressed this vulnerable population.”

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the health department, said limited vaccinating of homebound Rhode Islanders has begun but it takes time to get contracts in place with the vendors who will be the ones going home to home for vaccinations.

“This takes time, but we’re are working to get this vaccinating happening as quickly as possible,” Wendelken said.

In a meeting of the COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee Tuesday, it was said that more than 2,000 people have registered through the homebound form, and the state is working with three new vendors for in-home vaccinations.

A timeline of when homebound seniors will start to get vaccinated has not been shared.

“I feel hopeful, I’m happy to hear that but they’ve said this,” DoVale said. “They’ve been telling me next couple of weeks for the past few months. So I’m kind of hesitant to believe it.”

Click here for a link to the state’s homebound vaccination form.

© WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island