Online registrations are a hurdle
Ramirez said that many older adults do not have the skills to register online. “They might not even have computers,” he added.
“The insistence of our elected officials and those who set up the vaccine distribution for them to use technology as the first way to access the vaccine is a huge obstacle in itself,” Ramirez said.
The technology barrier in Austin is such that vaccine clinics established in minority communities are being crushed by whites from other regions in hopes of getting vaccinated.
“Because the people-to-people portal is for everyone, we see many people who are richer than other parts of the city come to our community and use most of the vaccine,” Ramirez said. “When you look at the statistics, only 9% of Latinos get vaccinated, 2.2% of African Americans and the rest are white.”
Experts said many people were reluctant to get vaccinated due to the spread of misinformation due to a lack of public health information targeting Black and Hispanic communities.
“There was a lack of knowledge about vaccines, their safety and why people should get this,” Ramirez said. “In the absence of good knowledge, we have a lot of misinformation taking root.”
Faced with all this, community groups took matters into their own hands.
Clark-Amar’s group set up a call center to help seniors register for the vaccine.
“On the phones we have care managers, social workers who fill out the online process for them, plan for them, print out all pre-approval forms, pre-fill them,” Clark-Amar said. “We have buses, we have our own transport, so we pick them up and make sure they’re vaccinated wherever they are.”
Call centers, churches and ice cream trucks
Ramirez said the health authority in Austin is expected to open a multilingual call center at the end of February.
Community groups also take on the task of publicizing vaccine safety.