D.C.’s door-to-door COVID vaccine program hopes to increase trust among the hesitant

Even as vaccinations for younger children are expected to ramp up, COVID-19 vaccination rates for adults have slowed across much of the country. Nationally, about 70% of Americans 18 years and older are fully vaccinated. But many cities and states aren’t giving up on pushing that number higher. Amna Nawaz reports on one effort in Washington, D.C., that brings vaccines straight to residents’ homes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Even as vaccinations for younger children are expected to ramp up soon, COVID-19 vaccination rates for adults have slowed across much of the country.

    Nationally, about 70 percent of Americans 18 years and older are fully vaccinated. But many cities and states aren't giving up on pushing that number higher.

    Amna Nawaz reports on one effort in Washington, D.C., that brings vaccines straight to residents' homes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Every morning in this Washington, D.C., warehouse begins like this, nurses prepping, packing up, and rolling out portable subzero freezers full of COVID-19 vaccines.

    Patrick Ashley, D.C. Department of Health: Today, we're doing 20 vaccinations in the community.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Patrick Ashley helps lead the District's health emergency response. That includes this program that takes the vaccine straight to people's homes.

    Patrick Ashley, D.C. Department of Health: We want to take out any excuse that they might have of why they wouldn't get vaccinated. So we have heard from some people that it's child care. So we take we have taken that away. We have heard that it's hard to find. You pick up a phone, we will schedule it for you, we will come to your house.

  • Woman:

    Hello?

  • Adedolapo Adegbite, Registered Nurse:

    Hello. Hi, how are you? My name is Adae (ph). I'm calling from Department of Health

  • Woman:

    Yes.

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    Yes, I'm calling regarding your vaccination for today.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    On this day, Adedolapo Adegbite — she goes by Adae — is one of two nurses crisscrossing the District to dole out doses.

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    So, with this homebound, it literally makes people feel safe. I'm in my home. I have a nurse coming to me. I get to be in the comfort of my zone — of my home, and I feel — they feel safer.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Since launching this spring, D.C.'s at-home vaccine program has administered more than 1, 500 shots. It's a fraction of the one million shots the city has given out. But officials say it's just one part of the District's plan to boost its vaccination rate, which, at around 75 percent, is already higher than the national average

  • Patrick Ashley:

    We're not going to get everybody with this program, but it does provide yet another option for individuals to get vaccinated so that we're not just doing seven out of 10. We're hoping for 10 out of 10 eventually.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In fact, the majority of residents using the service are getting their first COVID vaccination.

    But Adegbite's first stop today is to administer boosters to 90-year-old Peggy Templeman and her caretaker, Lillian Bazemore. Both were originally vaccinated in the spring.

  • Peggy Templeman, D.C. Resident:

    It's difficult for me to get out and about.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So if they hadn't come to you to give you the shots, how would you have gotten your vaccine?

  • Peggy Templeman:

    I would have had to go out, which would have been kind of difficult for me, more difficult than staying in the house.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Bazemore says she works around the clock, making it hard to go get a vaccine during business hours, even though it's crucial for her job.

  • Lillian Bazemore, Home Aide:

    I work around seniors, and I'm always around seniors. I can't afford for any of them to get sick.

    So I'm afraid to take something to them. Even though I might not feel bad, I wouldn't want to jeopardize them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Adegbite delivers the doses, monitors for side effects, and answers questions on site. Sometimes, she asks some of her own, especially now that demand, she says, has ticked up.

    Do you ever ask them why they waited until now to get the shot or why they're getting it now?

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    So, for first dosers, when you ask, it's like: My job is making me get it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Most of them because — they're getting them because of mandates.

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    Right or, I didn't know I could get it. Oh, I didn't know how serious it was. Oh, there's another variant. And it's like, wow, yes, yes, they're so — and, some people, it's just education.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Health officials tell us among the many reasons people share for why they choose to get vaccinated at home, privacy is something they hear often.

    In fact, even though most of the shots they administer are first or second doses, none of those patients wanted to talk to us today.

  • Dr. James Hildreth, Meharry Medical College:

    Whatever avenues are available to us to get more shots in arms, we need to take advantage of them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Dr. James Hildreth of Nashville's Meharry Medical College says every shot counts. And figuring out how to get to people who aren't looking for the vaccine is a challenge for health officials nationwide.

  • Dr. James Hildreth:

    Trust is a huge issue here.

    So whether it's a city or state or federal agency that's trying to get more vaccines, we have got to identify trusted organizations and trusted individuals to be engaging the communities, those who are resistant to vaccines, because that really is what makes the difference, when you have someone engaging those who are hesitant who they trust or respect.

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    We're going to the last morning appointment

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Back in Washington, D.C., Adegbite's day continues, house after house, shot after shot.

    Do you think about the role that you're playing and sort of the bigger picture ending this pandemic every day?

  • Adedolapo Adegbite:

    Yes. Initially, it wasn't much of like, oh — I just felt like I was working, and that's just me doing my day-to-day work.

    But knowing what the COVID did to everybody and how long it's taken for us to get over it, it's really exciting to know that people are actually coming out now. For whatever reason they're coming out to get it, we're just glad that we are able to help.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    One patient and one shot at a time.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz in Washington, D.C.

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