Gov. Wolf: "We are committed to finding every way we can to reach Pennsylvanians who cannot leave their homes."By Meghan Schiller

READING, Pa. (KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf says several state agencies are working to help Pennsylvanians who are homebound get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor, the state Secretary of Aging Robert Torres and other state representatives focused on the topic at a Monday news conference in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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Gov. Wolf says caregivers should make a call to the state health department, their local agency on aging or the Human Services Department to get the vaccine. Wolf says the state’s website uses a drop-down menu with information by county, including the address, phone number and website of each area on aging.

It’s all about getting the vaccine to those who are vulnerable.

“These are people who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. They’ve suffered the same isolation that we have, and even more so than we all have, as a result of this pandemic. So we are committed to finding every way we can to reach Pennsylvanians who cannot leave their homes and give them equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Gov. Wolf said.

Many agencies that had a waiting list for shots a few months ago now have plenty of supply to make appointments.

“I agree with Gov. Wolf that all barriers and hurdles must be removed so that anyone who wants to be vaccinated can do so easily. That’s been my goal all along – but the increase in supply now makes this achievable,” said Allegheny Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen in a statement.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller talked to one independent doctor who said she’s hopeful for any plan, because she learned firsthand that the need is out there.

“It really was a word-of-mouth kind of thing. People found out about us doing these vaccines in general and knew we were doctors you could literally just text or call and email.”

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For the past several months, Dr. Natalie Gentile balanced a family practice and vaccinating any homebound person who reached out. After KDKA highlighted the work of Dr. Gentile and Direct Care Physicians of Pittsburgh, the interest spiked.

“At this point, I shut off our intake form after about 200-plus people that had asked for help,” said Dr. Gentile.

So far, she’s vaccinated more than 130 people who could not or should not physically travel to get a dose.

Now she’s bowing out and no longer scheduling any first dose appointments.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller asked, “What caused you to shut off the intake and to say ‘ok, I’m overwhelmed. I can only do so much?’”

“There’s not enough time in the day,” said Dr. Gentile. “To take in all of these requests and then I was hand-by-hand going through each volunteer and assigning them to a region.”

Dr. Gentile admits it’s a complex problem, saying that’s why we needed a plan months ago.

“You have to use all 10 doses in there within 6 hours once that vial is open. I can’t just say- ‘oh, go do three homebound visits today, go do four another day,’” said Dr. Gentile. “We’ve got to do those math problems too, so really organizing all of that and coordinating all of that alone was way too much to handle while also running my own practice.”

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Dr. Bogen said defining who is homebound is a challenge, but different outreach efforts have been reaching different groups.

Meghan Schiller