Online sign-ups complicate vaccine rollout for older people

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DENVER (AP) – Howard Jones, 83, was on the phone for three to four hours every day trying to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine.

Jones, who lives alone in Colorado Springs, doesn’t have the internet, and that made it much more difficult for him to make an appointment. It took him about a week. He said confusion added to his anxiety about contracting what could be a life-threatening illness at his age.

“This has been hell,” Jones said. “I’m 83 and not using a computer is just terrible.”

As states in the United States roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, seniors are scrambling over how to register for the vaccine. Many states and counties require people to book online appointments, but some sites Web glitch, overloaded phone lines and a rapidly changing patchwork of rules bother older people, who are often less tech savvy, can live far from immunization. sites and are more likely not to have Internet access at all, especially people of color and those who are poor.

Nearly 9.5 million seniors, or 16.5% of American adults aged 65 and over, do not have access to the Internet, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Access is worse for older people of color: over 25% of blacks, about 21% of Hispanics, and over 28% of Native Americans 65 and over have no way to connect. This is compared to 15.5% of white seniors.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr Rebecca Parish was appalled by the bureaucratic process and the continuous calls for help from the elderly. One of her patients, 83, called her in tears, unable to navigate Rite Aid’s online appointment system. A 92-year-old woman called her before dawn this week after reading about her in a newspaper, telling her, “I’ll do anything to get this vaccine.”

So Parish took matters into his own hands. She contacted Contra Costa County and acquired 500 doses to vaccinate people this weekend at a college in Lafayette, Calif. She works with nonprofits to identify seniors who do not live in nursing homes and who are at risk of falling through the cracks. All of her appointments have been claimed, but she will resume taking them once more doses become available.

Some health officials have tried to find other solutions to ease the confusion and help seniors enroll, just as the Trump administration urged states this week to make the country’s 54 million seniors eligible. to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some places have found simple ideas to work. In Morgantown, West Virginia, county health officials used a large road construction sign to indicate the phone number of seniors to call for an appointment. Others are considering partnering with community groups or creating mobile clinics for hard-to-reach populations.

Some older people may be waiting for news from their doctor. But there are limits to using health care systems, pharmacies or primary care providers to reach underserved people who don’t have the internet, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.

She said the two coronavirus vaccines available in the United States and their requirements for cold temperatures “do not lend themselves to being sent to rural areas.”

In McComb, Mississippi, where 77.5 percent of residents are black and nearly half of the population live below the poverty line, Mary Christian, 71, made an online appointment with the help of her son. But the only one available sites are at least an hour from his life.

“I’m 71, and my kids won’t be happy if I drive between 1 and 200 miles away to get the shot,” said Christian, who has …

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