By Sonja Reis
-Wandering Through Life-
COVID-19 vaccines have been available to Pennsylvania residents since late-January.
Trouble registering for appointments using the state’s online access system remains an access barrier for many, especially minority, low-income and older populations.
Certain health issues allowed my husband, Ezra, to be among the first to receive one of the limited batches of the vaccines. Yay? We wish.
The online scheduling process required someone to be parked at a computer watching and waiting for an opening to become available only for hopes to be dashed minutes later when the appointment was claimed by someone else.
It’s a frustrating process, to say the least. Yet, he finally had the chance to roll up his sleeve and receive the first round of the two-shot series. Let’s hope vaccine supplies remain stable so his second appointment isn’t canceled.
It took four people weeks of diligently watching for appointments to become available before he was able to be scheduled for March 11. The vaccination site was in Bridgeville, we live in Kennedy.
Lauren, my helpful sister-in-law in New Jersey, scored the appointment for him. She was the victor in the game of Whack-A-Mole scheduling who commented that the process in Pennsylvania was easier to navigate than that of New Jersey.
My family is grateful to hers for the assist. But what about those who don’t have a caring friend or family member to navigate the system for them? What about those without smartphones or online access?
New Pittsburgh Courier, a partner organization with Gazette 2.0 and others at the Pittsburgh Media Project, provided the following saddening statistics in a March 5 exclusive report headlined “African Americans abominably underrepresented in obtaining COVID-19 vaccine.”
The report shows as of Feb. 26 just 2,860 Allegheny County residents who identified as Black had received both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech) as compared to 36,429 white residents in the county who were fully vaccinated.
The Courier’s numbers were gathered from the Pa. Department of Health’s website and don’t take into account Allegheny County data that hasn’t been reported, the 4,109 fully-vaccinated who identified their race as “multiple/other,” nor the 15,967 fully-vaccinated whose race was classified “unknown.”
Currently, those county numbers remain similar in ratio even with public libraries — a traditional spot allowing those who don’t have personal online access — beginning to open doors to the public in response to loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
• Robinson Township’s public library opened its doors March 1.
• Coraopolis Memorial Library began taking reservations for 45-minute computer/fax/printing appointments March 9.
• Sheraden's branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is operating under reduced building occupancy (5%) and time limits on in-person services (60 minutes).
If you know someone having troubles making an appointment and you can help, then offer to do so.
Allegheny County’s expanded partnership with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania allows for phone support scheduling via 2-1-1 and additional websites to make the hunt for an appointment easier have been popping up online.
The sooner a majority is vaccinated, the sooner the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths will subside.
We’ll also be able to get rid of these dreaded masks and get our economy back on track.