For Many Seniors, Whether They Get a COVID-19 Vaccine May Depend on Their Families


WHEN SHE SAW THE LINES of cars on the TV, Dana Chadwell knew getting her parents vaccinated in her county wasn’t an option.

It was late December and COVID-19 vaccination distribution had finally begun for priority groups, including the elderly and health care providers. Chadwell, a 46-year-old Chattanooga, Kentucky, resident, wanted to get her parents, both in their mid-to-late 70s with significant health conditions, quickly vaccinated. But in Hamilton County where she and her parents live, people were lining up for hours to wait in their cars for vaccines, and, in some cases, discovering there were no doses left. There was no way her parents could wait hours and hours in line, she thought, especially if their efforts were fruitless.

So, she turned to social media, spending all day talking to other local residents about where they’d gone to get vaccinated, and scouring the social media pages of community centers, large churches, fire departments and health departments in her area for news on how many doses were available. Some days she would hear rumors about dose availability in adjourning counties and would call health departments to ask. It was intense, tiring work.

“Vaccination dominated my life for a couple of weeks,” she says.

As seniors begin to get offered COVID-19 vaccines, some families are finding that the burden of getting one into the arm of an elderly loved one is falling entirely on them. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that states should expand their vaccination programs to more of their 65+ populations, moving past initial guidance that urged prioritizing health care providers and long-term care facilities first and aligning more with the incoming Biden administration’s vaccination plan.

But beyond simply prioritizing these groups, there’s been no nationwide response specifically targeted at creating access for seniors, and state-by-state programs vary with much of the vaccination distribution happening on a county-level.

Kathleen Cameron, senior director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging, says her advice to people is to go directly to their local health departments to ask where to get vaccinated. She recognizes, however, that puts a burden on seniors, as well as their friends and families.

“That’s great for older adults who do have access to the internet and they’re tech savvy and they can do that but there are so many older adults who are living alone, they’re homebound and we really worry about those folks who probably need the vaccine more than anyone else,” Cameron says. Some community organizations, including aging councils, may be offering assistance programs, such as in a North Carolina county, where a local aging organization is providing transportation for seniors…Read more>>



Register Form

Email Address
Phone No