CBS 58 Investigates: Elderly, those without internet, struggle to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine

CBS 58 Investigates: Elderly, those without internet, struggle to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Hundreds of thousands in Wisconsin have received the COVD-19 vaccine, but many are confused about how to sign up for the shot.

According to a Washington Post vaccine tracker, Wisconsin is one of the top 10 states in the country percent of people who’ve had at least one dose. Still, there aren’t enough vaccines to go around, and some of the most vulnerable people are unable to even set up an appointment.

As the mass vaccination continues, so does the threat of COVID-19.

“If he [my husband] gets it [COVID-19] , he’s done,” said Beth Sommerfeldt. “He won’t survive it.”

Beth Sommerfeldt’s husband is in his 70s and has several health conditions. Since he doesn’t use the internet, Sommerfeldt is trying to find a vaccine appointment for him.

“It’s been terrible,” Sommerfeldt said. “He’s signed up the Milwaukee VA, we got him in Aurora and Meijers, and we get nothing.”

Sommerfeldt isn’t alone. CBS 58 Investigates asked viewers if they’re struggling.

Hundreds commented on a Facebook post saying they’ve signed up on numerous sites but can’t get an appointment. Others are trying to register family members who, like Sommerfeld’s husband, don’t use the internet or have a computer.

“I don’t know what people do that are on their own and don’t have a computer, because it doesn’t pay to call any place,” Sommerfeldt said. “We tried calling and we’re told don’t call.”

During a stop in Milwaukee this week, President Biden said he is concerned the vaccine rollout is primarily online.

“A lot of people don’t know how to register,” President Biden said. “Not everybody in the community, in the Hispanic and the African American community, particularly in rural areas that are distant and/or inner-city districts know how to get online to determine how to get in line for that COVID vaccination.”

Dr. Hashim Zaibak is the CEO of Hayat Pharmacy, which is providing the vaccine. He says a lot of people are confused about how to sign up.

“This afternoon we got someone who is 99 years old and we helped him and we helped him register and showed him where to get vaccinated and he got his shot today,” Dr. Zaibak said.

Hayat Pharmacy is working hard to help people get signed up. Dr. Zaibak set up a separate phone line for people who aren’t able to go online. You can call 414-483-0000.

“We’re hiring more people to answer the phones, we’ve purchased more phone sets,” Dr. Zaibak said. “We take care of them, we enter all their information and we register them for the vaccine.”

But it’s not just signing up. Some people tell CBS 58 Investigates they are unable to get to a vaccination site.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Lindsay Zeman, who is trying to get a shot for her elderly father. “I’ve called his primary doctor who told me to talk to his home health care team, they’re not giving out the shot.”

Zeman says her dad is in a wheelchair and homebound. She can’t afford an ambulance team to safely get him to a vaccination site.

“I know there’s a couple elderly people on this block that have the same issue,” Zeman said. “They have oxygen tanks or they just can’t get out of the house.”

Dr. Zaibak says homebound people are going to be one of the biggest challenges of this process.

“We don’t really have the right answer yet,” Dr. Zaibak said. “The challenge with the homebound is the allergic reaction.”

There are also challenges when it comes to keeping the vaccine cold enough.

Sommerfeldt, meanwhile, says she’ll keep trying. But it feels like trying to win the lottery.

“It’s frustrating, the neighbors around here who are in their 70s, like he is, and they’re not getting it either and we’re like so what are we doing wrong?”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services declined to do an interview, but below is information from a DHS spokesperson.

1. Our goal is for everyone who wants a vaccine to get a vaccine, but our weekly allotment right now doesn’t accommodate that. Please be patient.

2. Think about the places you get your flu shot or other vaccines: Your doctor’s office, your local health department, a local pharmacy, or community clinic. Check all of those resources to see if they can get you scheduled.

3. Some local health departments have sign up forms on their webpages. If you don’t have access to the internet, don’t hesitate to call. But again, be patient, there is a lot of interest in getting the vaccine, and you will be scheduled as soon as possible.

4. For individuals with internet access, check the website of their provider, or electronic medical record systems such as “My Chart”.

5. Check the mail for a letter from your doctor’s office.

You can also try calling Hayat’s vaccine line, 414-483-0000.

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