Vaccine dose from Walgreens

A Walgreens pharmacist prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

As hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 skyrocket, many seniors over 65 are struggling to navigate confusing vaccine distribution plans that differ across the country.

In Loudoun County, registering for the vaccine and booking appointments requires access to the internet, the ability to navigate webpages, an email address and, in some cases, the use of a smartphone.

At a time of great frustration with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time for Loudouners to help their neighbors, especially older residents, learn when they can expect to receive a vaccine and help them get in line.

Older residents, many of whom have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, are hearing about younger neighbors who may work for the school system or businesses categorized as front-line and essential getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot before them.

When residents call the County Health Department, the person on the other end of the line instructs them to complete an online COVID-19 vaccination survey. But when they complete the online survey, they don’t receive an email confirming that they are now officially in the system to receive a vaccine. The lack of a confirmation breeds uncertainty and anxiety.

“Overall, it’s a very difficult and frustrating experience,” a local resident with elderly parents told the Times-Mirror. “My parents would have never been able to tackle it on their own. It’s surprising to me that the richest county in the country, in a state with the only governor who is also a physician, is having so much trouble getting its citizens vaccinated.”

Many older couples share email addresses. When they go to register for the vaccine in Loudoun, they will be out of luck. Only one person can be registered to get the vaccine per email address.

The process is not set up for the elderly or low-income people who may not have access to the internet or smartphones. After residents receive their shots, they are handed a piece of paper with a QR code that is supposed to discuss possible side effects. Without a smartphone, the QR code is useless.

When residents receive their first dose, they are not given appointments for their second dose. Due to the vaccine shortage, residents must wait to get a link via email in a couple of weeks that will inform them of a possible date for the second shot.

Hospitals, assisted living facilities, school systems and large companies are doing a decent job of organizing vaccination events for their own people. But what about older people who live independently or people with underlying health conditions? Who is advocating for them?

The Times-Mirror has received several calls from seniors asking for help in understanding when they are eligible to get the vaccine and where they can go to get one.

They expressed frustration because when they called the Loudoun County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, they were simply told to fill out the survey and wait.

They were left in limbo as they saw people who are less susceptible to the deadly disease getting the vaccine before them.

Only 9% of the deaths in Virginia are people under the age of 60. About half of the deaths are people older than 80.

Before you reach out to make your own appointment, or while you wait for your age group or occupational category to be in the front of the line, reach out to your neighbor, aunt, uncle and friends who are over 65 and may need extra help navigating the system. Let’s help get our seniors protected.

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