Senior Citizens running into hurdles registering for Vaccine

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Indiana opened its vaccination registration up to people 70 and older this week. With registration primarily online, some of those looking to register for their first dose said they are running into some headaches. It's led officials to offer alternatives and pieces of advice for getting registered properly. It's also led some to lend a helping hand.

My mother couldn't turn on a computer if she had to," said Jennifer Levack a house call nurse who cares for senior citizens who also has been helping them get registered and vaccinated. "There's neighbors here too that...they're just not computer savvy at all. They still have flip phones. They can't go online and register anything."

Levack said a number of her patients have had trouble getting online to register. Some told her they didn't know what the website was. She said she has helped get 14 people registered for their vaccines. Some of those people were in Indiana. Others were in Michigan, Arizona and Oregon. Levack said Indiana's registration website is "far better" than any other website she has used to help people get registered.

St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said registering online is not the only option people have.

"There is the avenue of going through 211 to get registered for an appointment," Fox said. "Also, just recently, as of yesterday, the central library here locally has set up a phone bank similar to 211."

Fox said the website can get backed up leading to a longer wait-time to get registered. He said timing is everything on voiding those long waiting periods.

"At each phase, when they've expanded the eligibility," Fox said. "Last Friday it was 80 and older. Yesterday, 70 and older. Certainly, on those days, I know the system has been overwhelmed and not been able to accommodate the demand."

As demand for the vaccine goes up, the available appointments at vaccine sites go down. Levack said there is a simple fix for that.

"South Bend was filled through the week, the month, but the wonderful thing about that website is it gives you the opportunity to go to any...you just click on the next county," Levack said. "So, I clicked on Elkhart. The hospital did not have appointments scheduled. It was booked, but we were able to go and get in at the health department."

Dr. Fox said the best thing someone can do in order to get to a convenient location might be to just wait.

"We anticipate that beginning the week of January 25th, we're going to have more vaccine available here locally both through the county health department site and through St. Joe," Fox said. "So, the template will allow more appointment availability there. So, it may be that you put it off for ten days or something from now, and we'll see more appointments available."

Meanwhile, Dr. Fox said the St. Joseph County Health Department is still urging everyone to continue to adhere to COVID-19 safety policies and procedures at least until the vaccine has had a chance to run its course.

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