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Technology Gap Keeping Eligible Rochesterians From Getting COVID-19 Vaccine

Organizations across Rochester, NY are aiming to help those struggling to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations due to gaps in accessibility. According to WHEC, many senior inner-city Rochesterians are struggling to make appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t have computer access or don’t know where to go online to sign up at a vaccination site.

More mass vaccination sites are opening across Rochester, the most recent one being the Kodak Hawkeye site. However, making an appointment can be challenging. With multiple websites to sign-up at different vaccination sites and additional websites and apps to determine your eligibility, making an appointment can be difficult even for those who are tech-savvy. Fortunately, Apple App stores have banned COVID-19 apps that aren’t from health organizations. But for those without WiFi or computer access, making an appointment can seem impossible.

Melissa McGee, a cancer survivor and an essential employee, is just one eligible Rochesterian who has struggled to get an appointment. McGee says she would get up early and stay online for hours trying to find a way to make an appointment but with no luck. Her doctor provided her with a 311 number to call to help her make an appointment, but she says the number didn’t work. Eventually, after getting in-person assistance from News10NBC anchor Deanna Dewberry, McGee was finally able to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But McGee isn’t alone in her struggles.

That’s why Rochester organizations including the YMCA of Greater Rochester are helping eligible Rochesterians make their vaccination appointments. Eligible Rochesterians who need additional assistance or don’t have computer access can use one of the YMCA’s personalized laptops to make a vaccination appointment with the assistance of a staff member. The YMCA is also offering transportation for those who aren’t able to travel to the mass vaccination sites.

Miguel Melendez, the Ibero Chief Community Engagement Officer, says they’re trying to find more solutions to help those who are eligible get vaccinated. The vaccine task force, he says, is currently working on an equity plan for local supply and local control to get more Rochesterians registered.

Rochesterians eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 1A and Phase 1B include people aged 65 and older and those with qualifying underlying conditions. Underlying conditions include, but are not limited to: pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer, which affects 3,000 people every year. The vaccine (provided by public vaccination centers) is free regardless of whether you have Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people aged 65 and older.