Coral Burris, 68 years old, says she and her husband had three computers up and running, in addition to their cellphones, to successfully land appointments for their two Covid-19 vaccine doses near their Fort Pierce, Fla., home.
But others in their 55-plus community haven’t been as lucky. “It’s difficult, and I’m angry,” said Burris, who has been trying to help friends and neighbors register for vaccination appointments. “You need an email address. You need a computer. You need to get up at dawn to try to get appointments that are gone by 8 a.m. People are being left behind.”
The patchwork system of Covid vaccine signups and distribution has led to confusion and frustration in retirement communities and among vulnerable senior citizens across the country. These problems have been compounded by a lack of tech-savviness or resources among some senior populations.
While availability of vaccines will start to loosen up–top public-health officials have said that most of the public could be eligible for the vaccine as early as April–the signup process may still be complicated and exposed to bad actors.
Here are some tips if you want a Covid vaccine and are still searching:
John Phillips, 79, of Jersey City, N.J., worked with his wife to register on about a dozen websites in three states and make calls daily before landing an appointment this past week for his first vaccine dose at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health, where he is a patient.
“We were signing up and hustling every single day,” Phillips said, who added that he called nearly every retail pharmacy, doctor, health center, and hospital as far away as a three-hour drive to try to find an appointment. “You need to be this aggressive or it may not happen.”
Unless you have technology skills or can team up with tech-savvy friends or family to navigate the sign-up process, the Federal Trade Commission recommends starting with your state or local health department online or by phone, though not every state has a Covid hotline. Also, try your local doctor’s office or health insurance plan for directions and advice.
For some, transportation is a barrier to getting the shot. But some localities have provisions, so it pays to check around if you do get an appointment and need a ride. New York City, for example, will provide up to 10,000 rides per week for seniors who make a vaccine appointment at a city-operated site.
Regulators and watchdogs say to be cautious of advertisements for vaccines received through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, or from any unknown or unsolicited sources. Some scammers will try phone calls, texts or emails with embedded links to try to get personal information out of unsuspecting vaccine seekers.
Unsolicited messages from Facebook Messenger, in particular, should raise red flags. Some fraudsters have used pages that copy someone’s friend and send messages mining personal data with a helpful-seeming link before the account is found to be fake, authorities have warned.
Also, be cautious about any marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment, or if you are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine or be added to a waiting list or get early access.
Health officials also warn at-risk groups against shopping for leftover doses in person. While a store or clinic may advertise last-minute, extra vaccine availability, it’s too risky to wait in line or go from store to store looking for a shot, they said.
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