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Florida’s home health care workers call on DeSantis for vaccines

They should be given “high-priority status” for vaccination, the Home Care Association of Florida said in a letter.
Florida's rules are unclear on whether home health care workers are eligible to be vaccinated, the Home Care Association of Florida says. The group is pushing Gov. Ron DeSantis for an “explicit designation” of in-home providers as front-line health care workers.
Florida's rules are unclear on whether home health care workers are eligible to be vaccinated, the Home Care Association of Florida says. The group is pushing Gov. Ron DeSantis for an “explicit designation” of in-home providers as front-line health care workers. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published Feb. 10

Members and advocates of Florida’s home health care industry are calling on state leaders for vaccines, saying that many in-home providers have been turned away from the state’s vaccination sites “due to varying interpretations” of who is eligible for shots.

That has led to a drop in patients seeking home health care for fear of contracting COVID-19 from their caretakers, Home Care Association of Florida director Bobby Lolley wrote in a letter to DeSantis Tuesday. He requested “explicit designation” of in-home providers as front-line health care workers.

“A nurse, therapist or personal care worker caring for patients in the home setting is no different from their counterpart providing care in a facility setting, yet home health workers continue to be a blind spot in the immunization program,” Lolley wrote, pointing to the governor’s Dec. 23 executive order, which named “health care personnel with direct patient contact” as a priority group for vaccination.

Related: Worried about coronavirus vaccine side effects? Here's what to expect.

The Home Care Association represents providers from more than 2,000 state-licensed home health agencies that care for more than 350,000 high-risk patients each year, the letter said. Much of the work happens inside patients’ homes, but members also provide care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and inpatient hospice settings.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, acknowledged the association’s letter in a tweet Wednesday, nudging Florida’s director of emergency management Jared Moskowitz to address it. “We’ve heard a lot about this issue,” he wrote.

Lolley contended that giving shots to home health care workers would lessen community spread of COVID-19 and thereby reduce hospitalizations while giving patients better access to care. He suggested vaccines be distributed directly to home health agencies and, if not, that the state give home health care workers access to shots at county health departments or hospitals.

“With hospital workers provided unfettered access to the vaccine and pharmacies providing door-to-door vaccinations to long-term care facility workers and residents, we implore you to provide equitable access to home health agencies,” Lolley wrote, adding that “home health patients and the workforce who cares for them should be afforded high priority status for access to the vaccine.”

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