It was fantastic news when vaccines to protect against Covid-19 were developed in record time. Being highly-effective made the announcements even more welcoming. We are all in debt to the scientists and researchers who worked tirelessly to find the solutions. Creating the vaccines should have been the hard part.
During the past two weeks I have focused on getting all my clients and family members (over 75) vaccine appointments. I was not prepared for how difficult that process would be. Getting shots in arms should have been the simple part. Sadly, there is nothing simple about it…
Here’s a photo of my mom after she got her first Pfizer Covid-19 shot last week. Dealing with the healthcare system on a daily basis, I felt comfortable I could easily navigate the scheduling process, and take my parents who are in their early 80’s to get their first shots. They are otherwise independent seniors living on their own, however they each welcomed my help getting through this process. Afterwards they said they could not have done it themselves.
If you haven’t looked into getting the vaccine, here is the place to start for CT. Each state should have a similar portal:
For younger folks, this might not be too much of a challenge. But for seniors, with limited computer skills, or without an active email address, this process can be frustrating at best. Even for those seniors with an abundance of patience, it can be extremely challenging. For those folks who have cognitive issues or are very frail, it can be impossible.
There are many steps involved including verification codes, multiple webpages to get through and data to enter before you can even schedule a vaccination near you from the various potential locations. After doing a few registrations myself, I’ve mastered the process and have been assisting those who need help.
When you arrive for your appointment, expect to show ID more than once, fill out and sign forms, wait on line, maintain social distance, get your coveted shot, then wait for 15-30 minutes depending on your medical history to ensure you do not have a reaction. Then you can finally exhale and feel some relief. You are halfway there! The next step is to log back into the CDC-VAMS website account (if this is how you scheduled your first shot), to schedule your second shot and repeat the whole process. One of the things I learned is that you can’t schedule your second dose until you receive your first shot.
When I was trying to schedule the second shots, I could not get the appointments scheduled within the appropriate time frame. I overheard at the site where I took my parents, there were some technical glitches with second appointments, and the next day there would probably be more open appointment slots. By logging back in the next day I was able to get those. Phew!
What really concerns me is there is no plan yet for seniors who are homebound and cannot easily leave their home to get a vaccine, or those who do not have support systems in place to assist with this arduous scheduling task. Slowly I am starting to see senior center staff or other community organizations offering phone assistance to seniors without technology or family to help.
This article explains the challenges and has some helpful advice: “How to get your homebound parent a covid-19 vaccine.”
If the process is too difficult or complex, an Aging Life Care Professional like me can help manage or facilitate this for any seniors without local support. This service can range from initial registration to arranging transportation for the vaccinations.
Please remember that the vaccine does not mean we stop wearing masks or following public health strategies to decrease the spread. Almost every day I hear of someone I know who has Covid, is hospitalized, or has died from this disease. Please do your part to protect yourself, and those around you. There really is light at the end of the tunnel.
by Joan Garbow, MSW, LCSW, CCM
Advanced Member of The Aging Life Care Association