Local News

Frustration increasing for senior citizens trying to receive COVID vaccine

Posted January 13, 2021 5:22 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2021 6:00 p.m. EST

Figuring out how to get a COVID vaccine and who is eligible is becoming increasingly complex for senior citizens. From navigating the online maze of trying to get an appointment, to understanding shifting federal guidelines that North Carolina hasn't adopted yet -- it's complicated.

"This morning, I was 30 minutes on this [website] and 30 minutes on the Duke one," said Martha Rippard, who has spent hours trying to get vaccine appointments for herself and her husband.

"I know there are other people as frustrated as I am," she added.

The Rippards found going online even more complicated.

"He cussed at the computer for about three days," said Rippard.

After enlisting their daughter, who has better computer skills, 76-year-old Joe Rippard finally secured an appointment two-and-a-half weeks from Wednesday.

"He qualifies age-wise and health-wise," his wife explained.

Since she is younger than the state guidelines, Martha Rippard still doesn't know when she will be eligible, even with pre-existing conditions.

"You get two messages: One on national news saying its 65 and older and then you get on the phone sites, they say it's 75 and older," she said.

Tom Campbell is 75 years old and still hasn’t gotten his appointment.

"I've tried at least once a day, all week. In fact, since Sunday," explained Campbell. "When you go to these websites, there isn't any appointments available."

Campbell, a former journalist, said he spoke with state Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen and believes the problem lies with the fractured way in which different health departments and health systems are handling the rollout.

"You're telling me, on the one hand, I'm 75 years old, I can get a shot and then you're telling me on the other one, I can't get an appointment to get a shot," he added.

For now, many in the older population are staying isolated until they can get the vaccine.

"Normality is not something we have experienced since March," said Rippard, who wears two masks and a shield when she leaves her house.

DHHS officials said they are continuing to update the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System online to make things smoother.

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