Federal and state governments need to make it easier for Americans to get information and appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination because many older adults are frustrated by confusing and complicated processes that differ from state to state, AARP says in a letter to a congressional subcommittee that held a coronavirus hearing on Wednesday.
"We continue to hear from members who are struggling to make appointments, including those who do not have access to the internet,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, says in the letter to the leadership of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's health subcommittee. “Americans over the age of 50 are unsure how to make or confirm their appointment and are deeply frustrated and increasingly desperate."
In its letter, AARP outlines a number of steps lawmakers can take to lessen the problems consumers have in getting a COVID-19 vaccination:
- Work with states to develop toll-free 800 numbers for scheduling vaccination appointments and ensure that these numbers are staffed with competent customer service representatives.
- Make sure all consumers have access to a centralized online tool that they can search by zip code to find where they can get a vaccination. This tool and the 800 numbers should be available in a variety of languages.
- Allow people to review and sign the necessary consent forms for vaccinations online before they get to the site.
- Standardize the information patients need to have with them when they arrive at their vaccination appointments.
AARP's letter illustrates for lawmakers how demand for the vaccines has far outstripped the supply. During the week of Jan. 18, for example, Minnesota's vaccination appointment website received more than 1 million hits for only 6,000 appointments.
Vaccination process needs equity
During the hearing, Julie Morita, a physician and vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, called for a simplified vaccination system.