Many lack digital tools, skills to sign up for vaccination
Massachusetts is finally taking critical steps to hasten the pace of our COVID-19 vaccine rollout (“Governor quickens vaccine rollout, adds sites,” Page A1, Jan. 26). But if wide-scale vaccination is primarily dependent on thousands of people signing up for appointments through a complex online portal, we will leave behind our most vulnerable residents, many of whom don’t have access to the digital tools or skills necessary to sign up.
Nationally, 18 percent of all households don’t have Internet access and 23 percent don’t have a home computer, and 41 percent of people covered by Medicare don’t have access to the Internet from home. These major gaps in digital access and knowledge create significant barriers for millions of Americans, and thousands of people in Massachusetts, who are unable to reach essential services, and they disproportionately affect seniors and communities of color — communities already most at risk from COVID-19.
To avoid deepening existing gaps and leaving behind the very people we’ve identified as being a priority, Massachusetts must go beyond a complicated mass.gov sign-up process and be intentional about meeting our most underserved and unconnected residents where they are.
Co-chief executive officers
Tech Goes Home
Tech Goes Home is a nonprofit organization that works to empower communities to access and use digital tools.
Elder residents irate over lags in process
My senior friends in New York, Oklahoma, and Arizona all have received at least their first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. In Massachusetts, we are told that those age 75 and older will be getting their vaccine in February. Further information is limited.
This vaccine did not just drop from the sky. We have known for months that it was on the way, and yet there appears to be no real plan for its orderly distribution on a planned basis. How does the state plan to vaccinate the more than half a million people in this age group when many seniors are frail and are unable to gain easy access to mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park?
The anxiety levels among seniors are high, and we need more transparency on the distribution plans, such as they are.
Multiple missteps, rigid top-down approach set state back
Kudos to Robert Weisman and Kay Lazar for their superb Jan. 24 article on the multiple missteps and misplaced rigidity of our state government regarding vaccine distribution (”Misfires bedevil rollout of vaccines,” Page A1). This is the same state government that oversaw a distressingly high percentage of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents at the outset of the pandemic, that had to be badgered to provide transparency regarding disclosure of the number of deaths and cases by town and by nursing home, and that had a contact tracing program that proved unsuccessful, and now they’re in charge of a rigid, top-down, hospital-favored vaccination program.
It is disgraceful that hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses are sitting unused inside hospital refrigerators. The priorities set up by the Baker administration placed harbormasters above those who are over 75. And until this week, people over 65 had been placed near the bottom of the priority list when death data by age show that those over 65 are among the hardest hit by a huge margin.
Massachusetts is in the bottom half of the states in terms of vaccine distribution per capita. It was about time our imagination went beyond the boundaries of Longwood Avenue.
The writer is a consultant in health care policy and former Massachusetts undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation.