David Aberson, 86, left, and his wife Dori, 75, head out with others in the line by appointment to receive vaccination shots for protection against the coronavirus at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino. Dori Aberson said they were unable to get appointments for both of them on the same day and that she will have to come back the next day to get her vaccine.
Mel Melcon | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Amy Sullivan wakes up at 2:30 a.m., turns on two phones and two computers, and goes to the website of Publix, a supermarket chain with stores thousands of miles from her home in Los Angeles.
The grocer was one of the few companies in the United States to offer limited Covid-19 vaccines to people aged 65 and over in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. However, getting an appointment can be frustratingly difficult. They can’t be created over the phone or by simply showing up, and the slots usually almost fill up as soon as they’re posted online.
Sullivan, a 30-year-old writer and comedian, inadvertently built one List of more than a dozen Floridians who need help making an appointment. It started when she was helping her parents, aunts, and uncles get their recordings, which quickly led to her older neighbors and even her mother’s boss at the local library.
“We used to be waiting for Coachella tickets and you are waiting in line with multiple devices,” Sullivan said. “I would say it’s easier than getting a Covid vaccine.”
Older Americans across the country now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination woke up before daybreak and logged on to their computers to schedule an appointment for the life-saving recordings. Those who are not as tech-savvy have enlisted the help of younger family members or friends who can quickly move through the registration process before all places are taken.
While the introduction of the vaccine in the nation was slow to begin with, the outgoing Trump administration did advised states to expand the group of entitled persons for stabbing health care workers and first responders to anyone over the age of 65, as well as to those with underlying health conditions, to ensure the available footage was not wasted. According to the Kaiser Family FoundationIn at least 35 states, people 65 and over are now among their top priority groups 1a and 1b.
The amount of doses of Pfizer and Moderna – The only two companies to have received an emergency permit in the US to date – are still limited, creating a demand that has far exceeded supply. To date, nearly 50 million doses of the two-shot vaccines have been distributed to the states, and around 32 million of them have been administered according to the CDC.
Many states were quick to adopt the Trump administration’s new recommendations, thinking they would receive a surge in supply, state officials said. Outgoing Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar promised to release a reserve dose to guarantee a second start of the two-dose vaccination regimen. But when the time came there was no such reserve on a substantial scale. Some states said their allotments were actually cut, forcing them to postpone or cancel appointments.
“It is clear that the states that have been more aggressive to expand beyond 65, or even people with medical conditions, are the ones that are over-promised right now,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer at the Association of State and United States Territorial Health Officials.
In Florida, where approximately 27,000 people have died from the virus, there are more than 300 Publix stores that sell vaccines to residents. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had early violated the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in December opened the state’s eligibility to more than 4 million people aged 65 and over. So far, the state has vaccinated over 1 million people in this group.
“I wanted to throw my computer out the window. It was very frustrating,” said Jane Heller, a 70-year-old Florida writer and screenwriter.
Heller said it took her three and a half weeks to finally get an appointment in her home country of Pinellas, even though she was ready – and tried – to drive to other sales locations that were up to four hours away.
It was especially frustrating to hear reports of “vaccine tourism,” in which people traveled to Florida from places as far as New York City to take advantage of their open eligibility, she said. While Florida health officials have rejected the notion that medical tourism is happening on a large scale, they have to review advised practitioners whether a person has a permanent or seasonal residence prior to the administration of the sting.
“They used up my space and I was very angry,” said Heller.
“I just cried”
The problem isn’t limited to Florida. Cathy Pagano, a The New York City-based queen said she also had a hard time signing up for a dose when New York expanded eligibility to include those 65 and over in January. Pagano’s brother and another family friend stayed up until 1am trying to make an appointment online after becoming “hysterical,” she said.
“I just cried,” said Pagano. “People get chest pains and stress. When you are older it can lead to a heart attack because you are scared and sitting at the computer all the time and all you get is negativity. It’s just really, really too much for an elderly person . “
Angela Abruzzino, of Buffalo County, New York, said she had been trying to book Covid-19 vaccination appointments for her 81-year-old mother and 83-year-old father for days. She, her nephew, and his girlfriend kept updating websites last week and calling pharmacies and even driving to nearby hospitals, pharmacies and fire stations to check for available appointments.
The process, she said, was a full-time occupation and so far unsuccessful. She booked appointments for her two parents last week, but they were canceled after the state announced there weren’t enough supplies.
Now Abruzzino is back, on the phone, updates the registration links and goes on word of mouth to make two more appointments.
“My parents couldn’t have done it alone,” Abruzzino said in a telephone interview. “What about all the people out there, the elderly people out there, or the people who are sick and who have no one to help them, take in a family member who can help them?”
Some local officials have reached out to the private sector to facilitate the introduction of the vaccine.
Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most populous county with the highest number of Covid-19 infections, has partnered with start-up Nomi Health to bring people up for appointments after the county’s website crashed earlier this month when they were started offering vaccination appointments.
Josh Walker, co-founder and COO of Nomi, said the local health authority websites weren’t built for the kind of traffic they see now. When Miami-Dade started rolling out the vaccine, they saw hundreds of thousands of people on the website at the same time trying to book appointments, he said.
The company has partnered with the county on a new location that allows large numbers of people to enroll at one time. It also offers more support, such as B. other languages and a chat service. Walker said Nomi is working with Miami-Dade to offer more outreach services, like home delivery of vaccines to people in the home.
Nonprofits like Sostento, a New Jersey-based company that supports frontline healthcare workers, are also trying to help.
Joe Agoada, CEO of Sostento noted that many districts, pharmacies, and clinics rely on websites to make appointments for the public to use. Some health clinics set up call centers instead, but it was overwhelming to have vaccination clinics running while answering phones and treating patients, Agoada added.
This resulted in Sostento working with dozen of clinics across the country to provide assistance by acting as a call center for patients who had questions about the vaccines or wanted to make an appointment.
One clinic that Sostento works with is the Good Samaritan Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Breanna Lathrop, the clinic’s chief operating officer, said she heard frustration from people in the Good Samaritan community who said they did not trust the online sign up link in the county and could not get a call.
The clinic is located in West Atlanta and serves a predominantly Hispanic community that has been hard hit by the pandemic, Lathrop said. Many people who call are unsure about the vaccine and just want to discuss it with a healthcare professional they trust. Others might not make an appointment if there are too many barriers to do so, she said.
“There’s so much talk right now about how quickly we can get it out that I’m worried that this will override the talks about how we should also distribute it fairly,” Lathrop said. “Both are legitimate needs and concerns.”