Government officials have placed older Americans on the high priority list for receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, but that doesn’t make it easier to understand where and how to get these shots.
More than half of states have rolled out the vaccine, with older Americans at the top of the list for eligibility. Many of those interested in getting vaccinated as soon as possible have been waiting on lines or trying to register, while others haven’t been as lucky in scheduling an appointment.
Even with eased restrictions, some senior citizens have faced challenges. Family members and others have taken to Twitter to complain about the difficulty in finding any availability for the vaccine for their older loved ones. Getting an appointment may be even more difficult for older Americans with limited or no access to the internet, or family members who can help them sign up.
Many have noted how long seniors have had to wait in line for their vaccination. In Florida, some elderly individuals waited overnight for the vaccine, or reached out to local reporters for help with finding an appointment.
The rules for vaccine eligibility, and how to register, vary by state. In some states, like New York, Americans who are 65 and older are at the top of the list for receiving their shots, while in other states, individuals are only eligible when they are 70, 75 or in some cases, 80 and older. Sign-ups may also be at the county level, and websites across the country have been crashing, according to AARP. Telephone lines to the state or county health departments have also been inundated with calls.
AARP broke down when the vaccine is available in each state, how older individuals can schedule an appointment and who they can contact for further information on their website.
Americans can also search the web for where to find the vaccine in their county or state. New York City has a site called “COVID-19 Vaccine Finder” where individuals can type in their address or ZIP code. They’ll then see a map and list of health facilities that offer inoculations, as well as the opportunity to schedule an appointment. Anchorage, Alaska, has a similar website, with a list of locations that provide the vaccine.
Interested individuals can also check their local or state government’s health department websites. Georgia’s Department of Public Health has a page dedicated to the COVID-19 vaccine, including searching for vaccine sites by county or pharmacy chain.
Localities may also allow access to alerts for vaccinations. Washington, D.C. has a website dedicated to the coronavirus, listed under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s website, that announces when all appointments have been booked and allows individuals to register for alerts via email or text message for future availability.
Trying to be as specific as possible in these web searches will likely garner the best results. For example, after typing in “Jefferson County Colorado COVID-19 vaccine” in Google, the top result will be Jefferson County, Colo.’s page dedicated to the coronavirus vaccine, where individuals will see who they’re vaccinating now and what groups are next priority. The site also recommends people 70 and older visit the state’s public health department for more information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged local officials to roll out the vaccine to health care workers and first responders immediately, as well as older Americans and those with underlying health issues that place them at a “significantly higher risk” of issues from contracting the virus. Senior citizens are also prioritized if they live in “congregate or overcrowded settings,” such as nursing homes, where a staggering number of total COVID-19 deaths have occurred.
Still, access to the vaccines for older Americans has been less than ideal, many frustrated Americans have tweeted. Systems seem to be overwhelmed, tweeted Mark Levine, a New York city ccouncil member and chair of the health committee.
Local legislators have expressed disappointment in these technical difficulties and promised progress in the coming weeks.
“I noticed long lines at one site that put our seniors at risk and exposed them to cold weather,” Janeese Lewis George, a council member in Washington, D.C., said in a statement shared on Twitter. “I am recommending that larger sites be added, that seniors be given a registration number in the order they are registered, and that they be able to fill out the necessary paperwork remotely where it is safer.”