Ever since people ages 75 and older have become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the team at the Groton Senior Center has been fielding non-stop phone calls and questions.
"Our phones are blowing up. We are trying to help everyone as much as we can," said Cindy Olsen, who works at the senior center.
Olsen said that her team is hearing the sign-up stress first hand: people who are eligible for the vaccine but can't find a way to get the shot.
“Oh, they are so frustrated. We feel their frustration," said Olsen. "These systems are not senior user-friendly.”
Right now in Connecticut, people can sign up for the vaccine in several ways. But all sign-up options require either a phone or internet. Olsen said that many people in their community do not have access to either.
"We are always here to help our seniors. It has really been something we just want to help with, but there is only so much we can do," said Olsen.
Olsen said that she has had success getting people appointments. Others can be more difficult because of medical information.
The Groton Senior Center is not a site that is officially trained to help people sign up, but Olsen said they are doing it out of kindness for the seniors.
If Olsen and her colleagues are able to help someone get an appointment, the next hurdle is transportation.
"They don't have the capacity to get to the appointments," explained Olsen.
The Ledge Light Health District and the Department of Public Health told NBC Connecticut they are working to address equity issues in the vaccine rollout. They say that they are paying attention to barriers such as transportation, access to the internet and language that may keep people from getting the shot. They are actively developing plans.
"It is just going to be a little bit of waiting and then working together," said Olsen. "We just ask that the seniors be patient. We are trying to get you vaccinated as soon as possible."
The City of Norwich is also working to help residents register for vaccinations. The Rose City Senior Center has been helping seniors set up email accounts and enroll in the Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS).
Residents are asked to call the Rose City Senior Center Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 25 and 26 to schedule an appointment with a worker. Appointments will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 26, and Wednesday, Jan. 27, according to a press release from Norwich Human Services.
Based on call volume, more registration dates will be opened up. They are hoping to register all seniors who need assistance.
"Many people do not have any idea on how the vaccination process will work and what they need to do to be registered," Lee-Ann Gomes, director of human services for the city, wrote in a press release. "We want to have an all-out effort to educate our residents and assist them in any way possible."
To make an appointment, call the Rose City Senior Center at 860-889-5960.