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Vaccine teams do house calls for Rome's homebound

May 4, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.
Doctor Elisa Riccitelli talks with 85-year old Giorgio Tagliacarne, in his bed, after he received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at his home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME -- The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots a day -- six in the morning, six in the afternoon -- visiting Rome's home-bound elderly to administer covid-19 vaccines and, with them, the hope that Italy's most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic.

It's a time-consuming but crucial part of the vaccination campaign in Italy, which has the world's second-oldest population and tends to care for its aged at home rather than in institutional facilities.

In the Lazio region around Rome, some 30,000 people over age 75 and with conditions that made it impossible for them to get to vaccination centers requested a house call. On Tuesday, a dozen of them got their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech thanks to Dr. Elisa Riccitelli and nurse Luigi Lauri.

To make sure they hit all their appointments on time -- one vial of Pfizer for the morning six, one vial for the afternoon -- the local public health center struck a deal with Uber so its visiting vaccination teams could have a dedicated car and driver. The 500 free rides from Uber cut down on time spent finding parking spots in Rome's notoriously congested streets.

And when they ring a doorbell, they are welcomed inside like heroes.

"It's really a very nice feeling," Riccitelli said. "We often vaccinate bedridden patients who cannot move, the extremely elderly, so the feeling is that we're doing something really useful."

Italy's vaccination campaign got off to a slow start due to delivery shortages and logistical hiccups. But the pace is accelerating -- to date 18.2 million shots have been administered -- and officials hope to reach 500,000 a day, with a goal of vaccinating 80% of the population by September.

Lazio is doing better than many regions, administering just under 2 million shots. Appointments have opened up for people as young as 58 and some 80% of the homebound who made appointments for house calls have received at least one dose, regional officials said.

"I feel amazing, like yesterday and the day before that, amazing," said 96-year-old Patrizia Cumbo, who has dementia, after she got her shot. She lives with her caregiver and received her jab from the living room recliner where she spends most of her days.

A bedridden Giorgio Tagliacarne, 85, said he hoped his jab would spell the end of a year of isolation, which was particularly acute given he and his wife used to sail for pleasure around the world.

"This way now maybe my grandchildren can come visit me, which until now is something I have avoided," he said, as his wife sat nearby.

Riccitelli and Lauri take full precautions when they enter each home, donning dedicated protective gear and masks. Riccitelli notes relevant medical data and handles consent forms, while Lauri prepares and administers the vaccine, which they carry in an insulated bag to keep it cold.

Then they wait 15 minutes to ensure there are no adverse reactions, and move onto the next appointment.

"Fortunately we have never seen any side effects," Riccitelli says. "After 15 minutes we say goodbye with a big smile."

Nurse Luigi Lauri prepares a dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 85-year old Giorgio Tagliacarne at his home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots a day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Nurse Luigi Lauri prepares a dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 85-year old Giorgio Tagliacarne at his home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots a day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Nurse Luigi Lauri administers a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 85-year old Giorgio Tagliacarne at his home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Nurse Luigi Lauri administers a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 85-year old Giorgio Tagliacarne at his home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Doctor Elisa Riccitelli caresses Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, after she had a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Doctor Elisa Riccitelli caresses Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, after she had a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Silvia Mosca, center, welcomes doctor Elisa Riccitelli and nurse Nurse Luigi Lauri as they get ready before administrating a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to her husband at their home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Silvia Mosca, center, welcomes doctor Elisa Riccitelli and nurse Nurse Luigi Lauri as they get ready before administrating a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to her husband at their home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, flanked by her daughter Fiamma Spinelli receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, flanked by her daughter Fiamma Spinelli receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, looks at nurse Luigi Lauri preparing a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Patrizia Cumbo, 96 years old, looks at nurse Luigi Lauri preparing a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at her home in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani salutes medical personnel after she had a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani salutes medical personnel after she had a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Nurse Luigi Lauri administrates a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Nurse Luigi Lauri administrates a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Doctor Elisa Riccitelli, right, and nurse Nurse Luigi Lauri wear protective gear before entering in the home of Gabriella Valeriani, 86 years old, to administrate a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Doctor Elisa Riccitelli, right, and nurse Nurse Luigi Lauri wear protective gear before entering in the home of Gabriella Valeriani, 86 years old, to administrate a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Luigi Lauri administrates a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Luigi Lauri administrates a dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 86 year-old Gabriella Valeriani, in Rome, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots day _ six in the morning, six in the afternoon _ making house calls to Rome’s homebound elderly to administer coronavirus vaccines and along with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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