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Vaccine Appointments-The Vaccine Hurdles Older New Yorkers Face

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Roseline David, 80, spent nearly 19 hours trying to make a vaccination appointment.

This week, Ms. David repeatedly messaged her doctor, spent hours navigating the city’s website and called 311 only to be told someone would call her back or that appointments were filled.

Ms. David is not the only one struggling to get vaccinated in New York City. My colleague Sharon Otterman found that the city’s appointment system was rife with issues, from a confusing sign-up system to buggy websites to a lack of outreach. These hurdles are making it particularly hard for older New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

Here’s what you need to know:

A frustrating appointment sign-up system

Those who want to make an appointment confront multiple sign-up systems run by the city, state and private providers that work in parallel but do not link together. Some who work in senior services said that the systems were not sufficiently organized ahead of time.

On Tuesday, Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that the city was working to simplify the separate sign-up systems but that there was a reason for the complexity. He explained that each major player in the effort had its own medical records process that vaccination schedules must link to. Participating providers have their own scheduling systems, too.

A lack of outreach

Informing the most vulnerable New Yorkers about the vaccine has been its own challenge. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, commissioner for the Department for the Aging, said that roughly 60,000 calls were being made every week to help older adults make an appointment. Still, those who are not fluent in English or do not have access to a computer face particular barriers. There is a phone hotline, but wait times have been long.

A vaccine shortage

Since New York broadened its eligibility criteria, officials have been increasingly worried about supply.

“The Federal Government has only given New York approximately 300,000 vaccines/week for over 7 million people who are eligible — as a result supply is very limited.”

On the state’s website, an alert reads.

“Right now, if we don’t get more vaccine, there literally will not be appointments available after the next couple of weeks.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

As of Thursday, New York City had distributed 38 percent of its current vaccine supply, with roughly 490,000 doses still available.

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