WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and six of her Senate colleagues urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure seniors are able to access coronavirus vaccine scheduling systems.
In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the Senators noted that many seniors—who account for more than 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths—lack broadband access or do not regularly use the internet, leaving them at a disadvantage when signing up for a vaccine appointment. In response, the Senators encouraged the CDC to consider all available options to ensure all people, and in particular our nation’s seniors, know how to navigate and can access vaccine scheduling systems.
The Senators wrote: “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...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 was signed by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.
Dear Director Walensky:
We write to encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take additional action to ensure that older Americans—including seniors who may not have access to broadband or other necessary technology—can access appointment and scheduling systems for coronavirus vaccines.
As you know, this pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older adults. They are at a higher risk of serious illness if infected and account for 80 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths. The impact is not just physical—in July 2020, nearly 50 percent of older adults reported that coronavirus-related stress had a negative impact on their mental health, up from 31 percent in May 2020, closer to the beginning of the pandemic. In recognition of this, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the prioritization of older adults in its proposed Phase 1b and 1c of vaccine distribution.
However, the majority of all coronavirus vaccination appointments are currently scheduled online—exposing a critical generational digital divide that threatens to limit access to vaccines for some of the most vulnerable populations. Nearly 1 in 3 seniors in the United States do not use the internet, and many that do struggle to use it effectively. For seniors who have access to an online appointment portal, other issues persist, including registration websites frequently crashing due to overloads of traffic, challenges creating registration accounts, and glitches where available appointments vanish before applicants can enter all of their information to register. These issues are compounded by the fact that nearly 22 million—or 42 percent—of American seniors lack broadband access at home, while many others do not own a working computer.
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. We appreciate the Administration’s work to examine various options for a centralized vaccine scheduling and appointment system for Americans, including the elderly, to access vaccines. We urge the CDC to consider all available options and 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 progress made in developing multiple safe and highly effective vaccines to fight the coronavirus in less than a year is nothing short of a medical marvel. We must now take steps to ensure these vaccines are accessible—and that begins by making sure all Americans, including older adults, have access to vaccination appointment systems.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
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