Some with health problems have barriers to getting flu shot in Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It’s that time of year when many are rolling up their sleeves to get a flu shot.

But those not medically able to leave their homes are running into brick walls trying to find someone to bring the vaccine to them.

Deb Antoniades’ 12-year-old grandson is disabled and homebound. But she and his parents come in and out of the house all day, so they wanted him to get a flu shot. His pediatrician suggested she call the Monroe County Department of Health. She did, but was told the health department can only provide COVID shots to the homebound – not flu shots.

“Why can’t someone do the flu vaccine? I said, ‘You yourself are telling the community that the hospital beds are filling up, but that the flu is here early and it’s quite a nasty strain,'” she said.

She isn’t the only one frustrated. Scott Deane is disabled and homebound, too.

“It’s just puzzling because the COVID vaccines, I’ve had no problem having someone come to the house and do it. It’s been a simple process but for some reason the flu shot has been really difficult,” he said.

He’s called everyone he can think of.

“Eldersource, Lifespan, U of R… I’ve called everybody,” Deane said.

“I have blood drawn at home. I have my visiting nurse service. My primary care physician, if you can believe it, even makes house calls, so I’m blessed to have all those services available to me. So, this was really surprising. I’ve been working on this since September,” he said.

One of the locations he called said they couldn’t offer it because of staffing problems and shortages of funding.

In September 2021, the Monroe County Health Department spent $220,000 in tax dollars on a mobile vaccination unit. It was intended to bring vaccines – all different types – directly to those in need.

Monroe County outfitted this van during the pandemic to serve as a mobile vaccination unit. (WHEC file photo)

When News10NBC asked why it couldn’t be used to deliver flu shots to the homebound, a spokeswoman said, “We do not have the appropriate state license to perform routine, in-home vaccinations or other health care. We recommend these families talk with their primary care physician who can then refer them to an appropriately-licensed home health care agency.”

To which these families say: been there, done that.

“You know the homebound, Jenn, I think are an invisible population,” Antoniades said.