Several homebound seniors in San Diego County are awaiting their COVID-19 vaccines, despite a program that was created to get shots into arms of those who can't go to vaccine sites themselves.
One of those homebound seniors waiting for their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is Gary Pusey, 86, who worked most of his life as a gardener for the San Diego Unified School District. He liked the job because he could work outside, in the sunshine. But these days, he has to stay indoors in his La Mesa home and relies on caretakers and an oxygen machine to stay alive.
Despite being born with cerebral palsy, he describes a full life.
"I had wonderful parents. I married my wife when I was 24 and she was 20, he told NBC 7. "We have three boys, I have four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren."
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Pusey's wife passed in 2013. Since getting pneumonia last year, he has been bed-ridden at home, on hospice care.
His family uses extra care when they're with him, his son John Pusey said.
"Everyone has to be extremely careful around him, any kid of respiratory infection, whether it be COVID or anything else would be detrimental," John Pusey said from his home in Connecticut. "We essentially want him to be vaccinated partly to lessen the chance he would get it and to also protect the caregivers who live with him."
In February, San Diego County announced a new program to vaccinate homebound seniors. But after weeks of trying to call 211 and even the local fire department, neither Pusey's family nor caretakers could get him an appointment to have someone give him the shot at home.
"Back and forth nobody has given us a clear answer or a solution on how to proceed," said Ricky Hernandez, one of Gary Pusey's live-in caretakers.
NBC 7 emailed county spokesperson Michael Workman to ask specifically about Gary Pusey's case and the larger issue of getting homebound seniors vaccinated. Workman told NBC 7, by calling 211, Gary should've received his vaccine and that his case must have "slipped through the cracks."
NBC7 provided the County with Gary Pusey's information and the next day, someone called to scheduled his vaccine appointment. Within two days, a Sharp mobile team went to Gary Pusey's home and gave him the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
County Chair of the Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher acknowledged on Thursday, that Gary Pusey is not alone.
"This program has been challenged," he said. "There are a lot of difficulties involved both because these individuals have underlying health conditions and so the teams have to stay on-site much longer.
Fletcher said other challenges including the transport of the vaccine due to storage and availability.
"It often takes more than an hour to do one individual," he said.
Sharp Healthcare has joined the county's mobile teams to help with vaccinations. About four or five teams work at a time and utilize the J&J vaccine.
"We are trying to get it back on track and move a little faster. It's a very challenging situation," Fletcher said. "We've had a couple of hiccups but we think it is back on track and moving much more smoothly."