Despite the fact that New York State recently expanded its COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, reports suggest that the most vulnerable group of citizens are experiencing major issues trying to secure their doses.
Each day, another 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States. Over the last year, it’s become clear that senior citizens have the highest risks of complications related to the novel coronavirus. Until vaccines became available, it was necessary for many of these elderly individuals to stay home as much as possible (or remain sequestered in care facilities) to reduce risk. Although the average American life expectancy is around 78 years, contracting COVID-19 can potentially prove fatal for many older people — especially for those with other health conditions.
Understandably, seniors have been included in the first roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. Although 60% of Americans don’t have a will, it was everyone’s hope that prioritizing the elderly could save some of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals from succumbing to this deadly illness.
But according to a Wall Street Journal report, approximately 40% of vaccine doses allocated to states have actually gone unused. And the system through which vaccination appointments have to be made has some fatal flaws — literally, in this case.
Navigating the system is confusing and overwhelming, even for the tech-savvy. Some nursing homes and clinics are able to secure appointments for individuals directly, but most people will have to deal with a bunch of bad websites or make a lot of frustrating phone calls. In many cases, those who have already attempted to secure appointments come to find that, almost immediately, there are none available. Before you can even find that out, you’ll have to enter a lot of personal information — a time-consuming task that often comes with no pay-off at all. Some seniors are turning to hotlines in an attempt to secure appointments, even when state officials have advised to stick to the websites. This can be beneficial in some cases, but many find they have to remain on hold or have to press the redial button over and over again.
The Washington Post has compiled a helpful vaccine appointment guide that can prepare seniors and other eligible parties for what they’ll face. But some have secured appointments only to be turned away upon arrival due to system glitches or residency criteria. Fortunately, some groups are providing technological help for seniors who need to secure vaccination appointments — but it’s clear that nothing about this process is simple or painless.
According to reports, the state of New York has received around 250,000 vaccine doses every week, with at least 1.5 million residents receiving their first vaccine doses already. While officials maintain that everything is being done to vaccinate New Yorkers as quickly as possible, we’re only on the first stages of the roll-out.
In other words, it might get worse before it gets better. Until then, seniors will just have to keep trying to get an appointment — and stay home until they do.