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COVID Vaccine Frustration: AARP Survey on Scheduling Finds Less Than Half of On-Line Activists Successful

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Unable to Obtain Appointments Despite Having Computer Capability

ALBANY, N.Y.— Less than half of more than 2,200 AARP New York on line activists who responded to a follow-up survey this week reported success in scheduling an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

AARP conducted its initial vaccine appointment survey of on line activists in January. While a higher percentage of the 2,270 respondents to this month’s survey were able to schedule an appointment, only 43.8% were successful – up 8.4% from January’s survey to which 2,892 on line activists responded.

The follow-up survey also found respondents of color had less success than white New Yorkers. The February survey elicited nearly 2,200 on line responses within 24 hours. About 450 of this month’s total had also responded to the January survey.

“These are on line activists – New Yorkers with computer capabilities,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “If things are this frustrating for them, it’s even worse for the many older New Yorkers who aren’t computer savvy. We urged the Governor last month to keep improving the sign-up system, and we think this survey shows continued and ongoing improvements are imperative.”

The February survey found 29.8% of respondents reported receiving their first dose of the vaccine, 12.6% more than the January survey. And this month, 86.8% of those who had already received the first shot reported being scheduled for their second dose.

Nearly half of all respondents (48%) said the media was their primary source of information about scheduling vaccines – far ahead of the next most frequently cited source, government at 26%.

Only 39% of respondents of color to this month’s survey had success scheduling a vaccine, including 34.6% for African Americans. Of the 2,270 survey respondents, 211 were New Yorkers of color, including 105 African Americans. Not all attempted to schedule an appointment; many cited concerns about the availability of vaccine appointments in their neighborhoods or shortages of vaccines.

Respondents continued to report difficulties using the State’s vaccine website (https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/) to book an appointment, especially those with less computer experience. And those who had success - especially survey respondents of color - tend to have to travel far from their neighborhood to receive the vaccine.

The State also has a toll-free phone line (1-833-NYS-4-VAX, or 1-833-697-4829) to schedule vaccination appointments.

Some respondents only succeeded in scheduling an appointment after numerous tries – and/or with help from younger relatives. Homebound seniors expressed frustration in their inability to receive vaccines nearby.

Here are what respondents said:

“Searching for a vaccine appointment has become my new career. No luck, so far. Absolutely idiotic system. Should have been done by age. Simple and obvious. Instead, locating an appointment has become the responsibility of the individual.”
- Isobel, Rochester

“[I was] successful for Feb. 9 at (the Jacob) Javits (Center) only because I tried the day they opened to 65+. Another day I tried another site all day with no luck. When I tried the same site at 10 P.M. I was able to get an appointment the following day. I took [that] and cancelled the appointment at Javits. I did OK but it is a mess.”
- Madeline, New York City

“Frustrating. Many hours spent online and over the phone. Only when I had 3 computers working at the same time was I lucky enough to get an appointment.”
- Dennis, Rockville Centre

"It was extremely time-consuming and frustrating to repeatedly type in the answers to questions on the N.Y.S. Covid Internet Website only to be learn there were no appointments available for the only close location to me at the N.Y.S. Fairgrounds. When I also called the N.Y.S. toll-free help line telephone number for answers, direction, and help relating to Covid and trying to schedule an appointment, all four times the staff were unknowledgeable, short, and rude, which others have also experienced. After days of endless frustration with no results, I called the local Onondaga Health Department where I spoke with a very empathetic and helpful employee who later called me back to state she was able to add my name to the Kinney/Rite Aide drugstore waiting list for the SARS CoV-2 vaccine, while cautioning me the names will be selected at random so there is no guarantee of a call … Later and after numerous tries, I was able to finally schedule a firm appointment at the N.Y.S. Fairgrounds site… After much more time and effort I was also able to also schedule an appointment for an older 82-year old friend, who has no computer, but unfortunately that isn't until mid-March. I pray to God she survives this Covid and the variants as she takes care of a husband with serious Dementia. A week later, I stopped at the local Kinney/Rite Aide drugstore to ask the Pharmacist if they possibly had another waiting list to add my name on as I never heard from them previously. I was shocked to learn he did in fact call me, but unfortunately when I didn't answer the phone, they cannot leave a message related to Covid.” 
- Lawrence, Syracuse

“Long wait on phone. Websites unable to save information so you put in each day. No waitlist or acknowledgement from most sites. I spend a couple hours trying to get appointment every day. My family in other states who got theirs already said I should just go line up without appointment as that's what people do. More pharmacies are now joining up but checking this morning no appointments available…”
- Dawn, Brooklyn 

“There are no vaccines available with 100 miles! My doctor on my wellness checkup said even he couldn't get one. This is a joke. I will be 75 in 3 weeks. My wife will be 69 a week after. She has cancer and is obese. We have been homebound for a year and every site we go on says no appointments. We called a popup down the street and the number was disconnected. Unless you live in NYC or WAY upstate nothing is available here.”
- Noble, Poughkeepsie

 "I have spent many hours trying to secure vaccines for my almost 96 year-old mother-in-law and 69 year-old husband. My mother in law lives in a congregate senior living facility that has been deemed a 55 and up community by NYS, so they haven't been eligible for priority vaccines … most of the residents would not be able to live independently without the ancillary services this facility either provides or brings in on a daily basis … 3 full meals to all its residents every day, plus weekly housekeeping and laundry services, transportation to medical appointments, and activities and opportunities for social engagement and enrichment. Many residents have in-home health and/or medical aides, and/or family members coming in regularly to provide necessary personal care/medical services/ activities of daily living that allow the senior resident to remain independent in their personal decisions, financial decisions, and living situation, which is an integral part of quality of life for this aging population. Most of the residents are well above age 55 and have limited computer skills to access the cumbersome and confusing sign-up process for vaccines. Many residents have limited access to transportation. They also have mobility and health issues that make winter travel especially difficult and dangerous. Some residents have no family supports…It's been eye opening to realize there is no plan to make sure our vulnerable seniors are able to receive the vaccine.”
- Tracie, Honeoye Falls 

“Every place I selected, City Hospitals, City High School, Walgreens, CVS, even when I called 311, all responded they had no appointments for testing available.”
- Sonia,  Brooklyn

“I have been trying since the vaccine came out to schedule an appointment either online website or calling sites individually and have been unable to get through for my 78 year-old mother. At one point there were vaccines available at sites but the people running the computer system did not state the availability of it on the system in order for people to schedule a time and date ... This is total mismanagement of the bureaucratic system in New York.
- Milai, Brooklyn

Contact: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org

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About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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