Online sign-ups complicate the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for older people

by Patty niberg And Suman Nashdham, The Associated Press

Denver – Howard Jones, who was 83 years old, spent three to four hours every day on the phone trying to sign up for a coronovirus vaccine.

Jones, who lives alone in Colorado Springs, does not have internet, and it is very difficult for him to make an appointment. It took him about a week. He said that this confusion could lead to a fatal disease at his age.

“It’s been hell,” Jones said. “I’m 83 and not using a computer is terrible.”

As people across America roll the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, seniors are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots. Many states and counties have asked people to make appointments online, but a rash of messed up websites, overwhelmed phone lines and rapidly changing regulations are troubling older people, who are often low-tech, much from vaccination sites. Can stay away and is more likely not to have Internet access for everyone, especially people of color and those who are poor.

According to US Census Bureau data, about 9.5 million seniors or US adults 65 and older have 16.5% internet deficiencies. Access is worse for seniors of color: more than 25% of black people, about 21% of Hispanic people, and more than 28% of Native Americans 65 and older have no way of getting online. This is compared to 15.5% of white seniors.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Drs. Rebecca Parish has been cut off from the bureaucratic process and calls for help from superiors continue. One of his patients, who is 83 years old, called him in tears, unable to navigate the online appointment system at Right Aid. A 92-year-old woman phoned him before the beginning of this week after reading about him in a newspaper, telling him, “I’ll do anything to get this vaccine.”

So the parish took things into its own hands. She arrived in Contra Costa County and acquired 500 doses to vaccinate people this weekend at a middle school in Lafayette, California. She is working with nonprofits that identify seniors who do not live in nursing homes and are at risk of cracks. All his appointments have been claimed, but he will start taking them again once more doses are available.

Some health officials are trying to find other solutions to reduce confusion and help seniors sign up, as the Trump administration reported this week to states that the nation’s 54 million seniors qualified for the COVID-19 vaccine Was urged to make.

Simple ideas have found work in some places. In Morgantown, West Virginia, county health officials used a large road construction sign to list seniors’ phone numbers to call for an appointment. Others are considering partnering with community groups or setting up mobile clinics for hard-to-reach populations.

Some seniors will be waiting to hear from their doctor. Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said there are limits to accessing people using healthcare systems, pharmacies or primary care providers who do not have internet.

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