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Older adults struggle to access COVID-19 vaccine appointment websites

Older adults are frustrated about finding a way to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. If someone does not have internet access, getting in line can be challenging.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Those who qualify to receive the coronavirus vaccine can sign up online, but what about people who don't have internet access or the support to help find those resources? 

Older adults are saying they are frustrated about finding a way to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. If someone does not have access to a computer or know how to navigate the internet, getting in line to be vaccinated can be challenging. 

Janice Jeoffroy, 80, said she had tried to apply a COVID vaccine through private businesses like Brookshire Brothers. She said she had not received a call back about getting onto the list, and she was also told the businesses had run out of vaccines. 

"It's just frustrating to be old and need the shot," she said. "I can't seem to get a heads up by any place I apply."

The coronavirus vaccine supply is still limited by both the ability to manufacture it and the amount allotted to Texas by the federal government, Texas DSHS spokesperson Douglas Loveday said in an emailed statement. 

"We receive more vaccine each week, and we are allocating an additional 121,000 doses next week, because we’ll be finished setting aside vaccines for the federal pharmacy/long-term care program," he said. 

"We're asking people to be patient while the vaccine supply is limited," Loveday said. "It will be months before we have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1A and 1B."

Vaccines are sent to both smaller providers and larger hubs each week, Loveday said. 

"We rely on providers to vaccinate the people they serve based on the priorities set at the state level," he said. "People can choose to register with the type or types of providers that work best for their situation."

Jeoffroy also said she called the 211 number through the Texas State Health Department. She said they directed her to websites, but she does not have access to a computer or internet. 

"I'm mad at the fact that they didn't consider that there are probably hundreds of people in our area who don't have access to computers," she said. "People my age even if they had one, they probably don't use it."

Texas DSHS said vaccine providers are able to set up waitlists and registration in the way that works best for them, but people without internet access may be able to get help through city and county agencies that assist older adults or by calling their health care provider to get on their waitlist.

Anyone without internet access can also find COVID-19 vaccine providers nearby by calling DSHS's Nurse Call Center at Texas 2-1-1 (option 6) or directly at (877) 570-9779 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Loveday said.  

DSHS is directing people to websites for more information about vaccination hubs. When an applicant tries to sign up for an appointment, those applications are submitted online also.

Jeoffroy is not alone in feeling the disconnect. 

According to census data from 2015 to 2019, 81 percent of households in Tyler County have a computer, but only 68 percent have a broadband internet subscription, which leaves 32 percent of Tyler County households unable to log on. 

Jeoffroy said she would like to see more resources for seniors. 

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