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Complicated online process for vaccine appointment raises concerns for older NYers

new york coronavirus vaccine
Posted at 3:21 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 23:05:43-05

NEW YORK CITY — As New York expands eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to millions more people, including those 75 years old and older, concerns are being raised about the steps it takes to register online for an appointment.

Harris Ton’s 85-year-old mother is among the new batch of New Yorkers now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She stood in line — among many others — on Monday after making an appointment through one of the city’s websites.

But others who showed up at the Brooklyn Army Terminal vaccination site were left confused by a process too digitally advanced for them. Those who did not have an appointment were turned away and told to call the city’s new hotline if they’re unable to complete registration online.

The hopeful but rejected walk-ins illustrate how dependent the appointment process is on technology and digital literacy.

New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer on Sunday called the online vaccine registration process a "major problem," especially for older residents.

The [Health Department] site for signing up for a COVID vaccination is complex, burdensome, and buggy,” Stringer said on Twitter.

According to the comptroller, the Health Department’s website features a multi-step verification process just to set up an account. Then users looking to make a vaccine appointment have to complete a six-step registration process that includes as many as 51 questions or fields to fill out and requires uploading images of an insurance card.

“All of this will be particularly challenging for populations that struggle with digital literacy and digital access — who have been hit hardest by this pandemic and who need the vaccine most,” Stringer said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday the city would work to make changes to the registration process where necessary.

“We absolutely want the simplest system,” he said during a coronavirus briefing.

New Yorkers who cannot register online for a vaccine appointment should call 877-VAX-4NYC. The hotline is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will eventually be available 24/7.

Meanwhile, New York City surpassed its goal last week of administering 100,000 vaccines.

This week, the city aims to administer 175,000 vaccines. The mayor said he feels confident the city will meet that goal.