When Digital Platforms for Scheduling COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments Leave Some Seniors Shut Out, Others Step In to Help

March 29, 2021

// By Jim Samuel //

Scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine was supposed to be easy because of digital tools. But digital tools have proven difficult to use for many older Americans. To help, some hospitals, health systems, and public health departments have embraced older technology, while community residents have stepped in to help.

Adults age 65 and older make up more than 75 percent of all deaths in the U.S. attributed to coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to a February 2021 study[1] from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

But among states that report COVID-19 vaccinations by age, most adults age 65 and older have not received their first dose even though they are eligible. The percentage of people in that age group who have received at least one dose of a vaccine ranges from a low of 10 percent in Pennsylvania to 34 percent in West Virginia.

The KFF study cites several reasons why so many older adults have not received their first vaccine dose. These include:

  • Demand that continues to exceed supply and states not having accurate projections of how many doses they will receive.
  • Lack of internet access makes one in five seniors rely on the telephone to schedule their appointments.
  • Digital scheduling tools that operate on a first-come, first-served basis; most appointments were already filled before seniors could schedule appointments by phone.
  • Differing scheduling procedures among states, counties, and providers have confused people who are eligible for the vaccine.

In Pennsylvania, for example, there is no statewide registration or scheduling system. In some counties, residents can register with their health department and then wait for notification that vaccines are available. Residents must call daily or check websites for every hospital, medical practice, pharmacy, or supermarket in their area that can administer vaccines.

To relieve frustration, some resourceful individuals and organizations are taking it upon themselves to create solutions to help vulnerable seniors schedule vaccine appointments.

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