NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – With the push to get herd immunity against COVID, the state continues to add more groups to the vaccine eligibility list.

A family on Long Island wants to know why they can’t get a shot to their vulnerable, homebound senior.

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They spoke with CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.

In bed with a cake, crown and his 96-year-old wife by his side, Ralph Romeo celebrated his 97th birthday. He’s a veteran who loves his country and, of course, his family.

“His family means the most to him. He has 17 great-grandchildren,” said his daughter Carol Rizzo.


And he means the most to his family, which is why they’re trying desperately to get him the COVID-19 vaccine to his Nassau County home.

“I’ve called doctors’ offices. I’ve gone into pharmacies,” Rizzo said. “Well, there’s no vaccines available for homebound individuals and it’s very frustrating.”

Especially since he has chronic health issues, can’t get to a vaccine site and is at risk at home.

“A lot of people think becaure they’re homebound they’re not seeing people, that physical therapists aren’t coming. There’s a whole host of people coming through to assist us,” Rizzo said. “And I don’t want to take any chances.”

Rizzo points to the one dose Johnson & Johnson shot, which would only require one visit, as the solution.

The state Department of Health said after those doses arrived a few weeks ago, it “immediately began working” with counties and New York City to vaccinate homebound populations.

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The city began its program earlier this month, but Nassau County says it has not yet finalized their program.


“We really do need to be vaccinating our homebound seniors as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Karen Abrashkin.

Abrashkin is the medical director of the Northwell Health House Calls program, which provides primary care to homebound patients. She made it her mission to vaccinate patients enrolled, reaching about 250 at home since mid-March, reiterating the importance of inoculating these seniors statewide.

“When these patients get COVID-19, their mortality rates are much higher than the general public,” Abrashkin said.

“My father’s not the only person out here that requires a vaccine. There are many, many homebound individuals. Please do something about it,” Rizzo said.

It’s a plea to the state to get the vaccine to those who can’t get it themselves.

The state Department of Health released this statement:

Our goal is to equitably and efficiently vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible, as quickly as we can, which includes ensuring homebound individuals have access to the vaccine. Due to its ease of use and the need for just one dose, the Johnson & Johnson shot is ideal for vaccinating homebound New Yorkers — after those doses arrived two weeks ago, we immediately began working with counties and New York City to vaccine their homebound populations. That work continues, as do conversations with the counties, the home care industry, the state office for the aging, and local Area Agencies on Aging to identify additional homebound individuals and expand our efforts.

Nassau County has not detailed when its program will be rolled out.

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Jenna DeAngelis