Calling Adult Kids, Grandkids: Vt. Governor Asks for Tech Help for Seniors Seeking Vaccines

Older Vermonters who may not have access to a computer or be comfortable online could need help signing up for their COVID-19 vaccines, the governor said

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In Vermont, state leaders are urging adult children and grandkids of senior citizens to provide some tech support during the sign-up process for COVID-19 vaccines—which starts Monday.

Up until now, vaccines in Vermont were limited to health care providers and residents of long-term care facilities. Starting next week, that will expand to members of the general population, with seniors first in line.

"We're prioritizing those most likely to die if they contract COVID," Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said Tuesday of his state's approach to vaccinating its residents.

The Scott administration will roll out the state's scarce and unpredictable supply of vaccines first to Vermonters age 75+, then 70+, followed by 65 and up and people with certain high-risk conditions.

The band incorporating people with high-risk conditions, listed by the Vermont Health Department, includes those with current cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart failure, or compromised immune systems.

Registrations for that first age band—of Vermonters 75 and older—will start Monday, Jan. 25, for clinics beginning Jan. 27, the Scott administration announced.

"I want to hug my family again," said Gloria Reynolds of Burlington.

Reynolds, 78, told NECN she plans to sign up for her vaccine ASAP.

"I'm extremely eager to get past the virus, and communicate with people again, and get out in the world again," Reynolds said Tuesday. "Being isolated isn't a lot of fun."

While call centers to register for a vaccination appointment will be staffed with a few hundred workers, according to the Vermont Agency of Human Services, the state does anticipate possible logjams on phone lines.

Because of that, the governor wants to see online vaccine sign-ups. He is urging kids, grandkids, and others to make a plan now for how they can assist older relatives with Vermont's web portal early next week.

"I'm asking friends and family members to help those who aren't savvy with technology," Scott said Tuesday, reiterating a plea he first made last Friday.

Beth Hammond and her team at the Heineberg Senior Center in Burlington will be providing computer support if the center's participants need it, Hammond said.

"We're anticipating quite a busy week ahead, and weeks ahead," the center's executive director told NECN. "There's a whole generation that may not feel comfortable online or even have access to the internet who very well could feel lost at this time."

Scott said to expect more details this Friday about how that 75+ age band can sign up for vaccines. The state said some 49,000 people here are in that first group, which will be waiting for the registration phone number and website.

Dr. Mark Levine, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, assured residents of the Green Mountain State there will be clear messaging about when and where Vermonters will get vaccinated.

"Please help us by not calling or sending emails until we provide all the details," Levine asked Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, flags were flying at half-staff across Vermont to honor and remember the 163 lives lost here to COVID-19.

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