Earle Kimel Sarasota Herald-Tribune
VENICE – Quietly over the past two weeks, paramedics with Venice Fire Rescue have been participating in a state pilot program to administer COVID-19 vaccines to homebound residents.
On Tuesday, Venice Fire Rescue Chief Shawn Carvey told the Venice City Council that paramedics have been administering between 10 and 20 doses per day.
“We’re the only department in this area that works under that program; we’re very fortunate to be part of that program,” Carvey said.
“The feedback from the community is, we’ve received happiness and tears,” he added.
As part of the process, Carvey said Venice Fire Rescue reached out to different community leaders, including the Central Venice Coalition and other homeowners associations the department regularly visits as part of its community outreach to establish a list of qualified homebound recipients.
“We have liaisons that our department works with at a lot of those different associations,” Carvey said. “They started emailing us lists of people that may be or definitely are homebound.
Fire Department administrative assistant Tammy Short has been calling people on that list to determine eligibility.
“We look for people who are physically unable to make it to a vaccination site,” Carvey said. “It may be because you’re wheelchair-bound or you’re severely immunocompromised so you can’t get there.”
He added that someone who simply doesn’t have a car would not qualify, since there are other ways to get to a vaccination site.
Also, “if somebody is homebound and they’re under 65, they do qualify for this program,” Carvey said.
Now that Short has established a list of questions and criteria to determine whether someone is homebound, Carvey said individuals can call the main administration number at 941-480-3030 to be put on the list.
Venice Fire Rescue is the only department in Sarasota County that’s enrolled in the pilot program.
“We’ve spoken to other departments around this area; they’re definitely looking at doing something like this,” Carvey said.
The vaccine doses Venice receives are part of 1,500 shots a week that Gov. Ron DeSantis set aside for the pilot program.
Carvey said the city had been working with the Florida Department of Health Emergency Medical Services System.
“Maybe I called at the right time and we were selected,” he added.
Carvey was told that only four or five departments are enrolled in the program, including departments in Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Carvey said Venice currently has between 40 and 60 doses left and has already put in for an additional 100 to 200 doses.
“We know there’s a bigger need than 180 right now,” he added.
Once the state allocates the first doses of vaccine, it automatically sets aside the second dose too, Carvey said.
So far, the city has received doses of the Moderna vaccine.
A firefighter/EMT and paramedic use the fourth ambulance Venice acquired once it took over EMS service in October to visit homebound patients, so the city’s overall emergency response system is not diminished.
Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.