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Long-term care provider struggling to get COVID-19 vaccines for residents

Russo Care has been struggling to get 45 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for people living and working in the agency’s long-term care homes.

HOUSTON — Getting people in assisted living facilities the COVID-19 vaccine has been a top priority because they’re the most at risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. However, administrators at some group homes, which are part of group 1A, are still finding it very difficult to get vaccines for residents.

“Literally, I spent two hours on the phone being transferred. Being transferred. Being transferred, “explained Brittney Russo.

Russo is president of Russo Care, which is an HCS agency that helps adults, seniors and children with intellectual disabilities in the Cypress area. She says she has been struggling to get 45 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for people living and working in the agency’s long-term care homes. Another 40 clients who live in family homes are also waiting to get the vaccine.

“You know the whole reason for our program is to give them as normal a life as possible. It has not been normalized for them, because we can go to the grocery store and wear a mask, but some of them don’t know how to keep a mask on,” Russo said. “They have different disorders – like bipolar, schizophrenia – so they need to be out in the community to receive the types of hands-on therapy they’re used to getting. Not all therapy can be provided as adequately in their home setting.”

Limiting those services has been the cost of keeping her clients safe from the coronavirus. Russo says the vaccine will improve their quality of life, but she has been running into roadblock after roadblock trying to sign up through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.

Mobile teams with CVS and Walgreens are administering vaccines at nursing homes and long-term care facilities through the program. Representatives from both big pharmacies told KHOU 11 News that Russo Care isn’t on their list of facilities.

Russo said she hasn’t been able to get anyone on the phone to explain what went wrong. She feels it shouldn’t be this hard to get answers.

“They are in this program because they cannot fight and advocate for themselves. That’s our goal. That’s our mission. That’s our job to do as a community. When we forget about them and they’re left behind, it’s a reflection of our community as a whole, because they are the forgotten,” she said.

Instead of waiting to get answers, Russo has been looking for other ways to connect her clients with the vaccine. She is hopeful a physician she works with will be able to bring vaccines to her group homes this week.

“They have to be the priority. There are several Houstonians I know who have gotten the vaccine who are not in 1A or 1B. It’s important that, as a whole, we all keep them in mind. My agency and me alone, I can’t advocate for them myself,” she said.