En Route: Public Service Fellow Rachel Morrow teams up with VNA Meals on Wheels to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to elderly and homebound individuals in Dallas

The Maguire Ethics Center welcomes you to our first 2021 Maguire Public Service Fellow spotlight. This week’s post features Public Service Fellow Rachel Morrow and her efforts to address vaccine inequity among elderly and homebound individuals in Dallas.

Vaccinating as many Americans as possible against COVID-19 is no easy feat. Challenges such as vaccine hesitancy, unorganized registration systems and conflicting information dominate news cycles, but another obstacle looms in the background: vaccinating elderly and homebound individuals. Maguire Ethics Center Public Service Fellow Rachel Morrow recognizes this unaddressed inequity and is teaming up with VNA Meals on Wheels to combat this issue. 

“Given that we are living through a global pandemic, I want to help find solutions to keep people safe and healthy so that our society can return to a sense of normalcy,” Rachel says. “One way to do that is help get people vaccinated, particularly people in vulnerable groups such as the elderly.”

Rachel is working with VNA Meals on Wheels this summer to help identify clients in need of a COVID-19 vaccine and scheduling at-home vaccinations for clients who are homebound and unable to schedule a vaccine appointment due to a lack of technology.

“Given that we are living through a global pandemic, I want to help find solutions to keep people safe and healthy so that our society can return to a sense of normalcy,” Rachel says. “One way to do that is help get people vaccinated, particularly people in vulnerable groups such as the elderly.”

VNA Meals on Wheels provides hot, nutritious, freshly prepared meals five days a week to Dallas County residents who cannot obtain or prepare meals for themselves due to illness, advanced age or disability. These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses and frail seniors who are homebound.VNA Meals on Wheels began its effort to vaccinate clients in February. In partnership with Dallas Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services, the City of Dallas and the State of Texas, VNA Meals on Wheels has vaccinated more than 150 clients so far.

“If Meals on Wheels Clients can receive vaccines in their homes without having to travel to a vaccination site or utilize complicated technology to register, they will be safer and that community at large will be closer to reaching herd immunity,” Rachel says.

During her time working with VNA Meals on Wheels, Rachel has taken on many important responsibilities. By contacting individuals via telephone, she guides them through a screening process to determine if they are eligible for meal services. In this screening process, Rachel also assesses potential clients’ vaccination status.

“I am learning to communicate clearly and effectively,” Rachel says. “I am also building trust with clients I speak with by phone. My calls are essentially a ‘check in’ to make sure that these clients are well and to simply be a kind and friendly voice showing that I care.”

Elderly North Texans are disproportionately vaccinated because of the struggles that come with  navigating decentralized scheduling systems. Instead of relying on these sometimes ineffective systems, many are calling local pharmacies or asking friends, family or networks of volunteers to find them an appointment. Drive-thru locations may seem convenient, but they actually exclude many Texans who don’t have access to a vehicle. Even for locations that don’t explicitly require a car, people still need to have access to transportation to get to their appointments, and they may have to stand and wait in line for long periods of time.

“The majority of Meals on Wheels clients are homebound, so they are thankful for the opportunity to have the vaccine brought to them since many of them cannot drive and rarely leave their homes,” Rachel says. “Therefore, this has taken the stress off of them about getting their vaccine.”

Rachel is no stranger to the VNA Meals on Wheels organization either. In high school, she served on its Teen Board. She also earned more than 100 hours of service each year for all four years. Now as a sophomore at SMU, she is continuing her dedication to serving others by participating in campus organizations such as The Big Event and Mustang Heroes. She also serves with her residential commons, Boaz, and led last year’s Boaz food drive.

“I recognize that I have been blessed in my life with great opportunities and I want to share my blessings with those who do not have the same opportunities or resources,” Rachel says. “More than ‘Doing Good,’ I want to ‘Think Big’ by not just serving the needs of others, but finding real solutions to our community’s problems. As an SMU student where world changers are shaped, I will be shaped as a world changer and ethical leader by promoting public health and equity of access during a historic time in our history.”

 

Related Links:

How to Book a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Without a Computer

Dallas County Meals on Wheels delivers vaccines to at-risk clients

On Internet and Vaccine Access, Minorities Are Left Behind

Governor Abbott Announces “Save Our Seniors” Initiative To Vaccinate Homebound Seniors In Texas

Dallas kicks off first in-home COVID vaccination program for homebound seniors

For Some Homebound Dallas Residents, COVID-19 Vaccinations Are On The Way

 

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