With states across the U.S. providing the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, seniors trying to determine how to make an appointment to receive their shots are having issues with COVID vaccination sign-ups. Many government agencies ask people to make appointments online. However, website errors, overwhelmed phone lines and a collection of changing rules are frustrating seniors who are frequently less tech-savvy, may live farther from vaccination sites and are less likely to have Internet access—especially minority populations and the poor.
ABC News’ recent article entitled “Online sign-ups complicate vaccine rollout for older people” reports that almost 9.5 million seniors (16.5% of Americans 65 and older) lack internet access, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Moreover, the access is worse for minority seniors, with more than 25% of Black people, about 21% of Hispanic people and over 28% of Native Americans age 65 and older have no way to get online. Compare that with 15.5% of white seniors. Many people are not aware that they can dial 2-1-1 to ask for help registering for the COVID vaccines.
According to a report by WFAA in Dallas, as of noon on Wednesday, February 10th over 2.5 million Texans have received their first dose of a COVID-19 Vaccine, with 842,870 fully vaccinated with both doses. In the D-FW Metroplex, large scale vaccination sites such as Fair Park, Texas Motor Speedway have been set up, but some seniors have had to wait for hours in line in their cars before receiving their vaccine. Progress will be further slowed this week due to icy weather forcasts.
Across the country, many health officials have been trying to find other solutions to ease the confusion and other issues with COVID vaccination sign-ups, and help the 57.6 million eligible senior citizens get vaccinated.
Some spots have discovered that simple ideas can work. For example, in Morgantown, West Virginia, county health officials used a large road construction sign to list the phone number for seniors to call to make an appointment. Some are looking at working with community groups or setting up mobile clinics for more remote populations.
Some medical systems, like UCHealth in Colorado, are trying to partner with community groups to get vaccines to underserved populations, like seniors. Local doctors are volunteering at a clinic hosted by a church that brings in the vaccine and helps build trust between health care workers and residents.
For now, UCHealth schedules appointments online, but a COVID-19 hotline is in the works because of the volume of calls from seniors. Howwever, even a Colorado health provider setting up vaccine clinics for underserved communities, Salud Family Health Centers, said their phone lines aren’t equipped to handle the number of calls they’re getting and encouraged people to go online.
For those of us in the DFW Metroplex, we have been advised to sign up early, even if we are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. To learn more about the vaccine roll-out, follow WFAA’s Covid Vaccine Updates. This site is updated several times each day as needed.
Reference: ABC News (Jan. 15, 2021) “Online sign-ups complicate vaccine rollout for older people”