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Adult foster care homes feel left out of the vaccination process in Oregon

Thousands of vulnerable adults in the 1A group are still waiting on the COVID vaccine.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gina Roberts has been trying to get her five residents and employees at "A Place to Call Home” in Tigard vaccinated since December.

“It's extremely frustrating. I know that our people, they feel like they're forgotten,” said Roberts.

Roberts runs one of the 1,400 adult foster homes in Oregon. These are small facilities run out of people’s homes.

According to guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, these adult care facilities are in the state’s 1A vaccination group, meaning they should have gone first.

The residents who live with Roberts are in their nineties, have mobility issues, or are on oxygen and can’t go to a mass vaccination clinic.

“These are people that all contributed to society. They all paid their taxes. They're all loved by their families. They need help. And we don't know what to do for them,” said Roberts.

Roberts was scheduled to get the vaccine to her facility through CVS on Feb. 10. After receiving several emails from the pharmacy chain, she said they canceled the clinic at her home.

A CVS customer service representative told Roberts in an email, “We cannot service your facility based on not having a common area outside the home and/or oversight coordinator."

Roberts replied that she is the coordinator and her facility has a common area, but the representative stopped responding.

CVS told KGW Wednesday afternoon they are working with the Oregon Health Authority to get the clinic rescheduled. Roberts hasn't heard from the pharmacy chain. 

“It brings me to tears. Like, I feel like we at least deserve some answers to know what happened. Why did CVS decide that they couldn't do it? Why can't someone from there at least give me the respect to call me and explain,” asked Roberts.

Adult care facilities were supposed to get the vaccine through a federal program but according to the Oregon Department of Human Services, only 172 out of 1,400 facilities signed up.

Fred Steele, the governor's appointed long-term care ombudsman, said the state didn't do a good enough job communicating with the adult care homeowners on how to get their residents the vaccine.

“There should have just been more communication, more direct communication with the smaller foster homes. These aren't corporate facilities,” said Steele.

Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Human Services sent a letter to all adult foster care facilities and said licensing staff with the DHS Office of Aging and People with Disabilities will be contacting facilities over the next few weeks to:

• Determine if you have established a connection with a pharmacy partner that may not yet be finalized.

• Reassign providers to new vaccine partners if needed; and,

• Address mobility concerns you may have regarding your residents and work to establish a connection to a mobile clinic option.

Gina, who did register and is still having issues, is not that hopeful DHS can help.

“They're doing the best that they can, but obviously they don't have the power to make something happen. They don't have direct access to the vaccines. We really need someone that's going to step up for us,” said Roberts.

KGW reached out to Governor Kate Brown's office for a comment. Spokesman Charles Boyle said in a statement:

Governor Brown prioritized the Oregonians most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Phase 1a, including adult foster home residents, so they could be vaccinated as quickly as possible. Now that this registration issue for the federal pharmacy vaccination program has been identified, my understanding is that DHS and OHA are taking steps immediately to rectify the situation by working with local public health and community pharmacies to get residents vaccinated as soon as possible.

Do you have a story idea for Cristin? Email her at CallCristin@kgw.com