DHSS to Launch Toll-Free Number for Eligible Delawareans Who Are Homebound to Access COVID-19 Vaccinations

Agency Also Kicks off Marketing Campaign to Encourage Seniors, Individuals with Disabilities to Get Vaccinated

WILMINGTON (Dec. 14, 2021) – The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced a new toll-free number for Delawareans to request COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible seniors and people with disabilities who cannot access a vaccination location because of disability, age or severe illness. DHSS also kicked off a marketing campaign aimed at supporting seniors and individuals with disabilities to get answers to questions they have about the vaccine and boosters.

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In the Homebound Vaccination Program, DHSS is partnering with independent pharmacies in each county to deliver the vaccinations to eligible Delawareans 5 and older. Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik and others announced the new vaccination program during an event Tuesday at one of the independent pharmacies, Ivira Pharmacy in Wilmington. Other participating pharmacies are Ivira Pharmacy’s location in Milford, Camden Pharmacy, Seaford Pharmacy, and Express Pharmacy in Laurel.

“Nothing is more important than getting more Delawareans vaccinated,” Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long said. “As a state, we are committed to removing as many barriers to access as possible. A toll-free line that older Delawareans and others who are homebound can call to be assessed for an at-home vaccination is an important step. So, too, is a new marketing campaign featuring older Delawareans, caregivers and individuals with disabilities.”

Starting Dec. 15, all requests for a homebound vaccination or booster will be filtered through a toll-free number – 1-888-491-4988 – to be assessed and scheduled. Live operators will staff the toll-free line from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. To learn more, visit DHSS’ website at VaccineAccessDE.com.

“One of the many lessons we’ve learned during the 21 months of this pandemic is that we have to meet communities where they are,” DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik said. “Today’s announcement is about meeting seniors, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers where they are. It’s about supporting them in getting access to the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, and it’s about ensuring that we can answer the unique questions that seniors and people with disabilities have about the vaccine.”

Earlier this year, in the first phase of its Homebound Vaccination Program, community nurses with DHSS’ Division of Public Health and Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, along with contract nurses with the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, worked with community partners, including DART Paratransit, to identify and vaccinate more than 500 Delawareans who are homebound.

In connection with this new phase, DHSS is launching a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging individuals with disabilities, their families and seniors to call the Division of Public Health at 1-833-643-1715 if they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or to visit DHSS’ webpage for information and resources at VaccineAccessDE.com. As part of the campaign, seniors, individuals with disabilities and their family members talked about what getting the COVID-19 vaccine has meant to them. The campaign is funded through grants from the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

“It is important for us to launch this campaign that specifically addresses the questions and concerns that older Delawareans and individuals with disabilities and their families may have,” said Melissa Smith, Director of DHSS’ Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities. “We are excited because it features Delawareans telling their own stories in print and video messages in order to help others feel comfortable about reaching out with questions and any accommodations they might need to get the vaccine.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that people with disabilities and seniors are at high risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. In Delaware, about 80% of the 2,218 people who have died from COVID-19 were 65 or older.

To help protect people in vulnerable groups, it’s important that everyone get vaccinated, practice social distancing, wear face masks indoors in public, get tested as needed, and wash their hands. In Delaware, almost 63% of all Delawareans are fully vaccinated, including more than 91% of those age 65 or older. But only 55% of seniors 65 or older have gotten their boosters.

While Delaware does not have data on the percentage of people with disabilities who are vaccinated, about 79% of American adults with disabilities have reported receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 84% of adults without a disability, according to a U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey. The Census Bureau survey, which was conducted among more than 100,000 adults in two phases from June to August of this year, found that the disparities among individuals with disabilities persisted across all age groups, in most race and ethnicity categories, and across all types of disability, even though adults with a disability reported less hesitancy to getting vaccinated.

A CDC study, published in October, found that adults with a disability anticipate or experience more difficulty getting COVID-19 vaccinations than adults without a disability. To help improve vaccination rates, the CDC recommended reducing barriers to vaccination scheduling and making vaccination sites more accessible.