Advocates worry seniors without computers may be left behind in vaccine distribution

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 5:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Hilo Medical Center opened its vaccine call line, phones rang off the hook.

“I would describe it as a crush of calls coming in,” said Elena Cabatu, director of public affairs.

They found access to technology was a serious issue. Seniors without computers and email addresses ― or someone who can help ― are struggling to get appointments for COVID-19 vaccines.

Registration for vaccines is primarily being done online.

[Read more: How to get an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine]

“Lots of kupuna do not have email addresses and folks are using their own for their kupuna, but they are going to need that for themselves,” said Cabatu.

Advocates fear these isolated, at-risk elders may be left behind while a limited supply of vaccine is being distributed.

“I’m really worried. I view these kupuna as my own,” she said.

Recently, Cabatu walked down her street and knocked on neighbors’ doors.

“Decided to go the extra mile,” said Cabatu. “I just took it upon myself and say, ‘hey have you registered?’” she added.

During that neighborhood walk, she found someone who needed help.

“We did find one auntie who was 90 years old and she said I would like to get it,” said Cabatu.

Cabatu says everyone can help by asking their neighbors if they need help.

“I think many people in the aging network are concerned about those that don’t have smartphones or computers and not being able to access the opportunities for vaccination,” said Susie Chun Oakland, program coordinator of Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center.

The center is working with several groups in hopes of finding solutions.

“Some of us have people’s phone numbers already or the ability to do robocalls to large numbers of people so we hope that we’ll be able to support the state’s efforts to vaccinate everyone,” she said.

The state Health Department says neighborhood health centers like Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Kokua Kalihi Valley and Kalihi-Palama Health Center are helping out.

“These are locations that we’re working with entities that we are working with that are working with the people in their community to provide access to them and assist them in registering for vaccinations,” said Brooks Baehr, Health Department spokesman.

The Lanakila Multi Purpose Senior Center is hosting a Zoom meeting and onference call on the vaccine Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. For an invitation, call 847-1322.

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