Transportation, technology among biggest barriers between Cincinnati seniors and vaccination

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CINCINNATI – Vanessa Tye felt like she waited a long time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She lives in a senior’s apartment building in Westwood, where she and her neighbors are among Ohioans most at risk of serious complications if they fall ill with COVID-19; for an entire year, she struggled to control her fear when she heard a cough and sneeze nearby.

“I shouldn’t feel like this,” she said.

People his age were seen as priority patients when the first vaccines were approved for use in the United States – but it wasn’t until mid-March that Tye, his neighbors in Westwood, and hundreds of others Ohio seniors get their appointment with the needle.

Why? For many seniors, technology and transportation are significant barriers. Tye was not vaccinated until her apartment building provided buses to a vaccination site. Others his age need help accessing the almost entirely online tools used to schedule appointments.

And these barriers may become even more intense for older people in black communities, which Pew researchers have found. are less likely than their white counterparts to be regular internet users.

“We hear from people trying to access programming online, and the digital divide is really a barrier for a lot of people in our community,” said Cinnamon Pelly, chief operating officer of the Urban League of Southwestern Ohio.

His agency has helped, in part, by setting up an easy-to-use online form that a user can complete on behalf of a friend or family member. Responses to the form are being sent to local health departments and have helped schedule around 500 appointments, Pelly said.

One of those nominations was for Kathy Wade, a jazz artist who directs the Cincinnati-based organization, Learning Through Art.

“The process with the Urban League, once I signed up, the next thing I got was, ‘Now pick a time, and this is where you’re probably going to end up’, she declared.

Her desire to travel, perform in front of an in-person audience, and hug the people she loves prompted her to get the shot despite her lifelong loathing for injections.

“If this is the solution, then we have to step up and take it,” she said. “Because we can’t go to the other side unless we all go together. … If everyone’s going to be a part of this, whatever the solution, whatever the new standard, you’ve got to start right there.

There is a third barrier to some senior vaccinations, Pelly added: mistrust. Some older people, especially those in minority communities, have reservations about the vaccine and want their questions answered before they feel comfortable receiving it.

“There was a lot of angst and fear of not being the target of unscrupulous practices,” Pelly said of the patients she helped.

Vanessa Tye, the Westwood resident who got the shot with her neighbors, said she had family members who felt too suspicious to get the shot.

Barbara Nichols, who lives in a similar apartment building for the elderly in Roselawn, had the same concerns herself.

“I was undecided to take it,” she said. “I wanted to know more and find out more about it.”

But she, like Tye and Wade, wanted to safely return to the life she had known before COVID-19. If getting the vaccine was the way to do it, she would – as long as no one made her look at the needle.

“I made my decision because I am an active person,” she said just before her shot. “I like going out, and I said, ‘Well, maybe if I take it, it’ll protect me.'”

About 2.8 million Ohioans had been vaccinated as of Monday afternoon. Gov. Mike DeWine will make all of the state’s adult population eligible for vaccination on March 29 – meaning programs like the Urban League’s, which help older people secure appointments despite competition from future patients, could become more important than ever.

“I hope we can get out of this as soon as possible,” Pelly said of the pandemic. “But it can’t happen fast enough.”


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