Finding a location to get a COVID-19 vaccine has been difficult for many, as the initial limited supply has slowed its rollout. Complicating access is a heavy dependence on digital tools like websites, text messages and emails to gain an appointment for a vaccine. Seniors are especially vulnerable to more severe illness from COVID-19. They’re also among the first groups of people eligible to receive the vaccine in Michigan, yet many lack access to the digital tools that would make it easier to get a vaccine. For example, a recent poll from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found 45% of adults aged 65 to 80 don’t have access to an online patient portal through their healthcare provider. At this time COVID-19 vaccines are being administered on an appointment-only basis through hospitals and health departments, as well as at some retail pharmacies and federally qualified health centers. In the future, most major pharmacy chains, nonprofit organizations and health care providers will be able to provide the vaccine as the supply increases in the coming months. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are handling the vaccination of their patient populations. All vaccines are being administered according to state and federal guidelines for eligibility – although some area hospitals and health departments may have more capacity than others to administer the vaccines depending on their location. While there will still be frustrations and delays in the first few months of 2021, there are steps individuals can take to help their older family members, friends and neighbors gain access to a vaccine:
Connect with the health department
Depending on where you live, the county or city’s health department may be facilitating vaccine clinics. Help your loved one identify what municipality they live in and check to see what local health department is offering vaccination clinics. A full list of Michigan’s city and county health departments offering COVID-19 vaccination is available online here.
Sign up for patient portal access
Connecting a senior adult to an online patient portal (like MyChart) through their healthcare provider is an important step to receive notifications from their affiliated healthcare system or hospital about vaccine appointment availability. Hospitals are leading the vaccination effort in many communities, and some county health departments may refer individuals to the local hospital to be connected to a vaccine appointment.
Consider adding a proxy
Should a senior adult lack a computer or smartphone – or have difficulty navigating the technology – it may be prudent to have a trusted adult become their proxy to access their online healthcare accounts.
check pharmacy websites
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched an online tool to help people find vaccination opportunities near where they live.
- Search for a COVID-19 vaccination location on VaccineFinder.org
Major retail pharmacies are offering vaccine appointments on a limited basis and availability varies by state and by location. Check their websites for appointment signups and information. Initial federal retail pharmacy partners in Michigan include Meijer, Rite Aid and Cardinal Health’s pharmacy services administrative organizations, LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe.
- Text “COVID” to 75049 or visit Meijer’s website at clinic.meijer.com to register
- Visit Rite Aid’s Michigan website to see if you’re eligible
- Find the full list of all participating retail pharmacies here
access state resources
As the state of Michigan is facilitating the vaccine distribution, its website is constantly updated with information. The site has a link to each county health department’s website as well.
For those without reliable internet access, individuals can call 2-1-1 in Michigan to get connected to vaccine information. It's a hotline set up by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 2-1-1 is a free, confidential service that connects residents to local community-based organizations across the state offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers. The state of Michigan is also offering educational sessions through a partnership with GetSetUp to help seniors understand how to use the state’s website to gain access to a vaccine. Registration is required for these sessions. Visit www.getsetup.io/michigan or call 1-888-559-1614. Those without internet access can also call the state of Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-535-6136 for vaccine information Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More from MIBluesPerspectives.com:
- COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Should Know
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will provide $0 cost sharing for COVID-19 vaccine coverage
- Grant: What We Know About the COVID-19 Vaccines
Photo credit: fizkes