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Overcoming the Barriers to Vaccinations for Seniors

Getting a COVID vaccine for seniors has been compared to scoring tickets to a sold-out show: It helps if you have good connections. Speaking of connections, many seniors struggle with technology, and the COVID vaccination process is one that requires fairly advanced and aggressive tech skills. Unless they’re a resident of a nursing home or other long-term care facility, these seniors are on their own to navigate the various barriers that need to be overcome to get their COVID vaccine shot.

Major Advantage for Nursing Home Residents

In a rare and refreshing twist for the residents of nursing homes, it is actually a major health care advantage to be a resident, if only when it comes to COVID vaccination. Thus far, the government has offloaded the responsibility for most COVID vaccinations to state health authorities, which are already stretched thin in terms of manpower, money, resources, and vaccines. One notable exception is for nursing home residents. Through its Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, the government has contracted with CVS, Walgreens, and other pharmacies to provide on-site vaccinations to residents and staff at their facilities. According to CVS and Walgreens, more than 48,000 of the roughly 50,000 U.S. facilities have signed up through the federal partnership as of January.

Residents who are living independently in senior apartments were originally overlooked in Maryland, but they are now getting included with on-site vaccinations.

For these residents, the shots will be coming to where they live, and they’ll have the staff and pharmacy employees to help them through the process. For seniors who are not residents, they have serious obstacles to overcome.

Tech Challenges for the Technically Challenged

Under the previous administration, the feds have dumped nearly every COVID-related responsibility onto state health departments. Keep in mind, that before the vaccine, state governments were already dealing with expensive testing programs and other pandemic expenditures that have exhausted their budgets and manpower. Now they’re being asked to dole out vaccines based on the highest priority populations, including seniors. This process of weeding out who should get a shot, by whom, where, and when, is being handled largely online. It should surprise no one that seniors are struggling to get through this complicated process. Worse, the state websites were not built for the type of traffic they are getting, causing glitches and outages.

dominoes falling into a vial of vaccine

Family members are encouraged to check in on seniors on the status of their shots. If they haven’t gotten both shots, they would be wise to offer to help their senior family members to get through this online scheduling process. Like trying to score Beyonce tickets, it is recommended that you hit the state vaccination website early in the morning, preferably with multiple devices (e.g., smart phones, home computers, and whatever else you have that connects to the Internet) in the hopes that one will get through.

Transportation Woes

Even if a senior has a shot scheduled, they might not be able to safely travel. Some are bed-ridden, some cannot safely leave home, and others have physical limitations that make them unable to drive. Winter weather has complicated traveling for those who might be able to get themselves to a vaccination appointment under more weather-friendly circumstances. Be sure to check in on friends and family who are seniors to see if they need a ride. Community and church organizations are also pitching in to help local seniors to get their shots.

Vaccine Shortages

Vaccination doses from Pfizer and Moderna were not ordered in quantities sufficient to meet demand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the states have received about 50 million doses (enough for only 25 million people, as it is a 2-shot vaccine). As of February 3 roughly 32 million of those shots have been administered. Many seniors who qualify for the shots will find out that their appointments have to be delayed or canceled, depending on the state. There are hopes that the new White House administration will be able to live up to more aggressive vaccination goals it has promised, perhaps by invoking theDefense Production Act, wherein the government forces private drug manufacturers to increase production in a national emergency.

As staunch advocates for nursing home residents’ rights, Brown & Barron, LLC’s legal team has been keeping a keen eye on Maryland’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We are very happy to see the groundbreaking progress being made in the fight against COVID-19. The hope that this pandemic will come to an end has turned out to be more than just a beacon.

To speak to a legal representative, contact Brown & Barron, LLC online or at (410) 213-3242.

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