MIAMI (AP) – Jane Greenberg is very busy helping her kindergartner with virtual classes and taking care of a child in her Florida home. But somehow he has found time to help dozens of seniors he has never met to navigate the confusing, often chaotic process of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine.
Greenberg is part of a 120-member volunteer force that helps South Florida residents overcome the difficult hurdles of 65 and older state-run registration systems that are poorly organized and rely heavily on a technology Which is often like a foreign language for them.
The problem has arisen in many states, where the absence of a well-organized national system has forced local governments to embark on an intriguing patchwork of vaccine delivery and administration plans at the earliest.
“I realized how many barriers there were to appointments that made it very difficult to make appointments,” said 36-year-old Greenberg, who was inspired to do his services himself when he saw his own parents and grandparents How much work did it take to sign up.
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“Unfortunately, many people are needed there,” she said.
When Florida expanded eligibility for the vaccine to the general elderly population in late December, anxious seniors camped at vaccinations sites overnight, phone lines went unheard and websites crashed.
Many seniors have also been thrown to register online rather than by phone or in-person appointment.
Recognizing the need to simplify this process, school principal Russ Schwartz and Parkland’s registered nurse Catherine Quick set up the South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Information page on Facebook.
Set for the first time last month, the page was conceived as a one-stop shop for superiors – somewhere they could find all the information they needed to sign up for shots. The Facebook group alerted members when the vaccination hotline was listing available spots or when a website was about to accept a booking.
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The page’s organizers soon found, however, that seniors don’t have to stick to their cellphones and laptops, and it would be much easier for them if someone could sign up on their behalf.
“A lot of our seniors, when they are using their cellphones, you ask them to send a picture or go to an app and they can’t,” Schwartz said. “They take longer. It’s not just their language.”
Volunteers have turned into full-time jobs for some of the group’s participants as they toggle back and forth between hospitals, grocery stores and county governments’ online registration platforms; Check the state vaccination supplies and make repeated calls to the overloaded hotline.
Currently around 3,000 seniors are waiting for help from one of the 120 volunteers. To boost its efforts, the group is encouraging young Facebook users to pitch in and help their older relatives navigate the online system.
“We are very proud of how we have been able to help, but it has been very heavy,” Quark said.
The inboxes of the group members are filled with emails thanking them for their assistance and displaying pictures of strangers with their sleeves up as they prepare to receive iconic shots.
A volunteer told him on the phone that he would get a shot in the next two days, cried Georgie Denito. 72-year-old Wellington, a Florida resident, said her 14-year-old grandson called her after being vaccinated.
“He Daenito said, ‘I can’t wait, because I haven’t seen you and now you can come to my house.’ “And he lasts for like eight minutes.”
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Schwartz said similar volunteer groups have popped up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and volunteers in Georgia and Southern California have asked for advice on setting them up.
Florida State Rep. Anna Iskamani, an Orlando Democrat, says that most vaccines in her state are available through online platforms, and local authorities rely on social networks to be aware of vaccine availability.
She States that the system not only negatively affects seniors, but also increases income and racial disparities. Eskamani says wealthy communities are already seeing more vaccination coverage than low-income neighborhoods.
“There should be rabo-dialing, knocking on the door. We should go to the communities,” he said. “People feel like it’s like a gameshow, like a race and it shouldn’t be like that. It should be a more thoughtful and strategic approach that is centralized.”
A new online system for residents for coronovirus vaccine appointments has been introduced by the state government last Friday, aiming to centralize the effort, but it does not match people from all those different locations, Where they can get the vaccine.
Meanwhile, vaccines are going waste. Last week, Florida state officials admitted that 3,344 doses of the vaccine had worsened, as they were not used rapidly before the drug worsened.
Volunteers like Greenberg, Schwartz and Quark are helping to change this. They have now become the first point of contact for some vaccination providers to find patients who can show up at the last minute to get leftover doses that would otherwise have to be thrown out.
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On a recent evening, Greenberg was able to quickly enlist 105 seniors for a vaccine clinic at a community center in Hollywood, Florida, where officials worried about not being able to use leftover doses .
The second time, he tracked down a man who had written a letter to South Florida editor Sun-Sentinel because he had not been able to book an appointment for his 65-year-old wife, who was suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome. .
“We are just trying to acquire weapons,” Greenberg said. “It’s rare to find somewhere where you can feel connected to the people you are helping.”