In Austin, Meals on Wheels Is Helping to Bring COVID-19 Vaccines Right to Seniors' Homes

COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered in Austin, Texas.
COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered in Austin, Texas. / Milan Markovic/iStock via Getty Images

Securing a COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be a challenge for many in the U.S. While the three major vaccine manufacturers—Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—ramp up production, demand is still exceeding availability.

But there’s another obstacle in the way of securing doses for high-risk populations, and that has to do with transportation. Many seniors can find it difficult to arrange for a ride to a vaccine distributor, or may be housebound owing to health concerns.

Meals on Wheels Central Texas can’t do much about vaccine supply, but they can assist with travel logistics. When seniors can’t come to the vaccine, the service is bringing the vaccine to seniors.

According to NPR radio station affiliate KUT 90.5 in Austin, the food program has partnered with Austin Public Health to arrange for in-home vaccinations for seniors who have meals delivered. It’s part of Austin Public Health’s Mobile Vaccination Program, which looks to remove transportation obstacles to those in need of vaccination.

“Because the majority of our clients who are on our services are homebound ... they're fearful of getting out there and getting the vaccine,” Linda Perez, the vice president of client services for Meals on Wheels Central Texas, told ABC affiliate KVUE. “There are several of them that haven't even gone anywhere, haven't gone to the grocery store. They're still using a lot of those services. So, [when] they get vaccinated, they feel like, ‘Then I can start venturing out.’”

Roughly 66 seniors were vaccinated Monday, March 22, using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has less stringent storage requirements and is just one dose. APH has the capacity to vaccinate up to 400 seniors per week via their mobile program if the supply is there. Those living with a senior are also eligible to be vaccinated if they fall into a prioritization group. Eventually, anyone living with a homebound person will be eligible.

Meals on Wheels has a long tradition of philanthropy. According to the Torrance, California, chapter, the service has roots in World War II Britain, when the Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defense delivered meals to families whose homes had been destroyed in the Blitz. Similar services for soldiers came to be known as Meals on Wheels. A similar program popped up in the United States in Philadelphia in 1954, where social worker Margaret Toy arranged for meal deliveries.

The current phase of the program is expected to last through the next two weeks.

[h/t KUT 90.5]