COVID-19 vaccine offers a shot of hopeFeb 22, 2021 04:33PM ● By Alan M. Schlein
Since the pandemic began a year ago, every aspect of American life has suffered. Older folks are worried about sudden illness and death. Even family gatherings and trips to the pharmacy or grocery store are no longer routine.
Seniors in particular are struggling to figure out what’s going on. Sorting through the onslaught of overwhelming coronavirus coverage and constantly changing information is challenging, especially when trying to decide what really matters.
The digital divide
Glitchy websites, misinformation, jammed phone lines and long lines outside of clinics make trying to obtain the lifesaving vaccine feel more like trying to win the lottery or score tickets to a concert. Even for seniors who are eligible to get the vaccine—those age 70 and older in many Colorado counties—arranging to get the vaccine is often a greater ordeal than actually getting the shot.
Some seniors are unable to make vaccine appointments because of insufficient computer skills—if they even have online access at all.
Newly analyzed data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging finds that nearly half (45 percent) of individuals between the ages of 65 and 80 said they had not set up an account with their health provider’s online portal system.
And it’s not just seniors—42 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 80 hadn’t either.
This digital divide can have life and death implications. Luckily, many seniors have family members or caregivers to assist them in searching for online information. But a growing number of older Americans are on their own.
Many states’ websites are a nightmare to navigate to find the needed information. However, some counties have set up easy online registration forms that will notify people via text, phone call or email when a vaccine is available.
Health departments are trying to hire more staff to handle vaccination hotlines and are specifically targeting seniors with help in the online sign-up process. But this costs money, and states are eagerly waiting for those dollars, which hopefully will come with the next stimulus package.
The nation’s response
With the nation moving toward 500,000 deaths, the struggle to keep up with the demand for the new coronavirus vaccine continues, and likely will well into summer. Additionally, health care professionals are navigating supply shortages and struggling to find qualified personnel to administer the vaccine.
The Biden administration is establishing national rules and a distribution system for vaccines that will give states adequate supplies to plan a few weeks ahead for distribution. It also recently worked out agreements with major pharmacy chains to begin distributing shots, since most Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy.
The federal government is also hoping to start up community vaccination clinics in spaces such as local gyms and sports stadiums. Aiming to surpass Biden’s target of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days as president, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently approved a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy 10,000 troops to support vaccination sites.
To ramp up that number, the Biden administration is moving to allow doctors and nurses who recently retired or are inactive to administer vaccinations.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans to change the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to ensure these health care workers can administer shots and to permit anyone licensed to vaccinate in their state to administer a shot across state lines.
In recent weeks, the Food and Drug Administration began approving over-the-counter coronavirus tests for Americans to use at home. This is part of a wave of new options that could play a role in catching infections that might otherwise go undetected. The administration said it expects 61 million such tests to be available by the summer from six different companies.
Home testing efforts run by state health departments in Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, Wisconsin, West Virginia and New Jersey have had some modest success.
The federal government recently purchased 8.5 million over-the-counter home test kits, made by the Australian company, Ellume. Test users can swab themselves at home and check their results in about 20 minutes. It’s one of only three consumer self-use tests on the market and the only one available without a doctor’s prescription. But the company still has to build a plant in the U.S. to make enough of the swabs, which will take time.
Does it hurt?
Seniors share their COVID-19 vaccination experiences.
Ken Siefken, 72
“The shot is less painful than the flu shot. It’s hardly noticeable. A lot of people have gotten the first and second shots by now. The effects have been pretty consistent.”
Jane Siefken, 71
“This was our second shot. After the first, we had a sore arm for a day—that’s it.”
Reason for getting it?
“We want to get back to normal.”
Judy & Gary Edmonds, 77 & 80
“We registered online and got a response within a week. It took a bit of trial and error, but it worked.”
Reason for getting it?
“We wouldn’t have thought not to! We don’t think we have anything to lose.”
Where to get vaccinatedAppointment scheduling is based on Colorado’s phased distribution guidelines. Please note these providers may or may not have vaccines currently available. These locations are not open for walk-in appointments and should be contacted directly for additional information.
• Mesa County Public Health
Fill out the Vaccine Interest Form and receive an email once a vaccine becomes available. This information also applies to vaccines administered by St. Mary’s Hospital and Colorado Canyons Hospital.
• Safeway Pharmacy
29 Road & Patterson:
Horizon Drive: 257-1392
• City Market Pharmacy
Orchard Mesa: 245-1215
12th & Patterson: 628-7563
• Primary Care Partners:
Fill out the Vaccine Interest Form under the COVID 19 tab.
• Community Hospital:
Call to schedule a vaccine, or visit the website. Please note that the voicemail will not be activated or checked until vaccines become available.
(North Avenue): 241-6652
• Montrose County Public Health:
Fill out the Vaccine Interest Form and receive an email once a vaccine becomes available.
• Safeway Pharmacy: 249-1160
• City Market Pharmacy
128 S. Townsend: 249-2064
16400 S. Townsend: 240-1994
• Delta County Health Department: 874-2165
Fill out the Vaccine Interest Form to get on the waitlist for the vaccine. The waitlist will be available to vaccine providers in Delta County who will contact you to schedule an appointment. This information also applies to vaccines administered by Delta County Memorial Hospital.
• Safeway Pharmacy: 874-9091
• City Market Pharmacy
All Points Transit offers no fares for trips to prescheduled vaccine appointments. Call 249-0128 in Montrose and 874-7334 in Delta.
Some senior living communities are offering free transportation to vaccination sites for some residents.
Colorado Vaccine Guidelines
AARP’s state-by-state coronavirus vaccine guides is updated daily. In the right-hand column, click on “the vaccine in your state.”