The Hill

By Justine Coleman

Six Democratic senators called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve and boost the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccine scheduling for seniors, as most appointments are made online. 

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), signed a Tuesday letter addressed to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that requests the agency “consider all available options” to help seniors set up appointments to get their vaccines. 

Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) signed the letter. 

The Democrats cited that more than 80 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the country so far having occurred among those 65 or older, according to CDC data. The impact on the older population influenced a CDC advisory committee to recommend that seniors be prioritized in getting the vaccine.

But many seniors do not have broadband access or use the internet often, leaving them at a disadvantage when trying to get their vaccine appointments. The senators accuse the current appointment systems of “exposing a critical generational digital divide that threatens to limit access to vaccines for some of the most vulnerable populations.”

“The CDC plays a critical role in overseeing the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is uniquely positioned to work with states to implement effective and equitable systems to schedule and administer vaccines,” the senators wrote. 

“We urge the CDC to consider all available resources to ensure that people can navigate and access vaccine scheduling systems, and we look forward to working with the Administration to ensure the success of a federally-supported vaccination website and call center to address some of the barriers to accessing vaccines,” the letter continued.

The senators point to statistics that almost 22 million American seniors lack broadband access at home and that 1 in 3 seniors in the U.S. does not use the internet, adding that many of those who do “struggle to use it effectively.”

Online appointment portals across the country, including in Washington, D.C., had drawn scrutiny for technical failures earlier this month as users dealt with crashing websites and disappearing appointments, although governments and tech companies were making improvements.

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