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Mid-South doctors go door to door to immunize Shelby County’s most vulnerable population

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 11:48 AM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 23, 2021 at 6:41 PM CDT - Updated April 5 at 11:01 AM on wmcactionnews5.com)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Great Health Divide) - While the City of Memphis attempts to get as many COVID-19 vaccines in arms as possible with drive-thru vaccine centers, there is one vulnerable group that could fall through the cracks, people who are homebound.

Armed with a super cooling freezer and doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, most of Dr. David Weber’s mornings are spent traveling across Shelby County to protect our most vulnerable population.

“Most of my patients are extremely old and extremely ill with multiple medical problems,” said Weber who works with Housecall Family Medicine.

Weber and his partner Dr. Jonathan English are part of a small number of doctors granted the ability by the Tennessee Department of Health to personally distribute COVID-19 vaccines to medically fragile and homebound patients, who often have multiple comorbidities making COVID-19 extremely dangerous.

“I think if I didn’t do it, these people wouldn’t get vaccinated so it’s a couple hundred people that maybe I’ve saved a few lives,” said Weber.

He says the application process to receive his own supply of vaccines was exhaustive.

“I started in late December and I didn’t get the first doses until the end of February,” he said.

Related | Memphis Fire Department administering vaccinations to homebound individuals in Shelby County

While the rest of Shelby County goes to drive-thru vaccine centers, there are approximately 4 million Americans nationwide, Webber says, who are housebound and cannot leave, like Ron Ferrari and his wife Barbara.

The Ferrari’s had been waiting anxiously for this vaccine so their lives can, in some ways, return to normal.

“I promised him we’d get him a shot somehow but I wasn’t sure how but this is really a miracle,” said Barbara.

“This has just been a lifesaver for us,” said Ron.

“Doing house calls is so satisfying because these people are so grateful,” said Weber.

While families like the Ferrari’s would call Weber heroic for his work, he says his reward is giving peace of mind to those who have been the most afraid during the pandemic.

“Some of my patients fought Adolph Hitler and we wouldn’t be here without them,” said Weber. “And then for the last year of their life they’re not allowed to see their children and grandchildren? Or for the last months? To me that’s tragic.”

Weber and English have already performed 135 vaccine calls distributing Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines with 165 appointments waiting to be completed.

Read more COVID-19 vaccine coverage here

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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