Ro, an online pharmacy that got its start prescribing sexual health products, is now offering to vaccinate seniors at home in New York. The company is working with the New York Department of Health as well as local organizations on the effort.
Seniors in Yonkers will be able to schedule an appointment through Ro’s website. Multiple people at a single location can schedule their appointments together, though all patients will have to prove they are older than 65. The company is working with the mayor’s office of Yonkers; the area’s Office for the Aging, which is helping it connect with seniors; and more than 100 local healthcare providers, including hospitals and local doctors’ offices.
Ro’s nurses, who are supplied through a staffing agency, pick up doses from healthcare providers and bring them directly to a roster of patients based on their proximity. After giving a patient a shot, nurses will monitor them for 20 minutes just in case there is a rare adverse event.
Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano says he believes that his company will be able to deliver at least one vial of 10 doses per healthcare provider every day. If there are extra doses left over at the end of the day, Reitano says that Ro is working with the mayor’s office to give excess vaccines to essential workers like police officers and firefighters. The goal is to expand the program over time to other parts of the state.
New York’s vaccine rollout has been chaotic, requiring eligible citizens to navigate a confusing array of websites and forms to get an appointment. Some seniors have faced incredible difficulty trying to book an appointment because they don’t have a computer. Nearly 20% of New Yorkers don’t have access to broadband, according to the 2019 Census. Reitano is hoping that his program will be able to reach seniors even if they can’t book appointments themselves.
This new initiative, which aims to bring vaccines to homebound seniors, is the first manifestation of Ro’s in-home healthcare platform, Workpath, which it acquired in December. Workpath connects patients with in-home health services like blood draws. Now it’s planning to launch more comprehensive home healthcare using a workforce of on-demand nurses. This will enable Ro to administer health exams and tests, augmenting its online primary care.
The company has three main health platforms: Roman for men’s products, Rory for women’s products, and Ro, its general online pharmacy. On the gendered sites, the company offers slightly marked-up generic drugs for a bevy of most-requested treatments for weight loss, hair growth, and poor libido. Through Ro, its broader pharmacy, the company prescribes 500 drugs on a subscription basis for $5 per month; its lineup includes metformin for diabetes, amlodipine for hypertension, and a variety of birth control. For vaccination appointments the company has set up yet another site: covidvaccinedrive.com.
The company’s recent venture into home health highlights its broader ambitions. While Ro started as a telehealth brand that treats taboo health concerns like erectile dysfunction, it aims to tackle everyday health needs and chronic conditions that require repeat prescriptions and services. With Workpath, Ro is better able to start treating high blood pressure and diabetes because it can manage all aspects of care rather than having to send patients to an off-site service to get a test or blood draw. “It’s the integration between remote care and in-home care that unlocks our ability to treat more complex chronic conditions on an ongoing basis,” Reitano says. Delivering vaccines is just the beginning.