Community leaders ensure that the homebound receive vaccines

Nurse Practitioner Daphne Gardner offers in-home vaccinations for homebound residents.

 

BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — As the founder and owner of Infinity Health Consultants – a mobile health care business – Nurse Practitioner Daphne Gardner knows the importance of providing medical care to the community, especially those who struggle to access it.

Amid a widespread pandemic, she knew firsthand that a significant portion of the community would struggle to get vaccinated. Many people cannot walk or stand for long periods, and for some, it is difficult or nearly impossible to leave their homes. Often, these are the people that need vaccines the most.

So, Gardner took it upon herself to find a solution.

“I wanted to be a force in the community and provide these vaccines to those that could not make it into the actual sites,” said Gardner.

As with most big ideas, it required a team effort to come to fruition.

Rebecca Watson works on health initiatives for the Pinellas County Urban League, which coincidentally were already looking for ways to increase access to vaccinations, particularly in Black and Brown communities.

“We had the funding, we had the vision, we just needed a medical partner,” said Watson. “So, when Daphne showed up and expressed interest, it was a perfect fit.”

The third major piece to getting this program running was Lynn Harrell-Johnson, founder of the Community Tech House. Johnson realized that many in the community did not have access to the technology needed to sign up for certain programs, or if they did, the tech-savvy needed to help them.

These skills are critical, especially during a pandemic, so the Community Tech House was born.

After hearing about the services that Johnson was offering the community, including signing up people for the vaccine through clinics or popup sites, Gardner called and asked if she would support the Homebound program by scheduling appointments for people to receive the vaccine in their home. Johnson was eager to help.

“The greatest significance of the program is being able to help residents sign up for the COVID vaccine and making it available to them,” said Johnson. “Scheduling it in their residence and having a nurse go out to their home, in their own environment, is a great thing, and I feel honored to be part of the team.”

Gardner said she secured the vaccines and three nurses to help administer the shots through the health department. Neighborly, who provides a local Meals on Wheels program, provided them with a list of around 220 people that could use their services.

While they all serve an integral role in making the program successful, Gardner is quick to note that it would have never got off the ground without the Rev. Watson Haynes, president & CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, which provides funding.

Together, this grassroots program has vaccinated 134 residents in St. Petersburg since March 20.

Not only do they vaccinate those that utilize a wheelchair or walker or that have difficulty walking or standing in long lines, but they will vaccinate their caretakers in-home as well.

“If they have one, two, or three members in the home that assist with caring for that patient, then we vaccinate them as well,” Gardner said.

Gardner stresses that she is here for the community and looks forward to any other outreach opportunities.

“I am a family nurse practitioner, and my clinic is located at the Sanderlin Center,” she explained. “I am also mobile, so I’ll come to you if you have any other healthcare needs that need to be addressed. I’m also willing to collaborate with any other business that would like for me to go out and vaccinate their homebound patients as well.”

Johnson wants everyone to get the vaccine so that they can come together and fellowship again.

“The more of us that get vaccines, the healthier our community will be,” she said. “I just want them to know that we’re here to help them do that.”

Watson would also like people to know they are available to help and to please call. They have appointments available with highly skilled nurses who live and care about the community and are looking to be resources for their neighbors.

“I even had one administer my vaccines,” said Watson.

“This vaccination will keep us from experiencing some of the dire outcomes that many African Americans, not just in Florida but around the nation, have experienced, and we don’t want to see another family suffer an unfortunate outcome. They don’t have to; we have this resource, we have this solution.”

Pinellas County Department of Health spokesperson Maggie Hall applauds the community effort in achieving such an important goal and looks forward to continuing their partnership with Gardner, Watson, and the Urban League.

“It’s important for people to know there are options,” Hall said. “If you have barriers, please reach out. Don’t let barriers stop you from getting the COVID vaccine.”

The Homebound vaccine program is now open to all ages and currently administering the Moderna vaccine. To register for this program or for assistance in scheduling an outside vaccine, please call Harrell-Johnson at the Community Tech Center at 727-253-8445 or visit communitytechhouse.com for more information.

To make an appointment with Gardner, whether at Infinity Health Consultants or through her mobile service, please call 727-265-1185 or visit infinityhealthconsultants.com.

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