BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Signing up for the COVID-19 vaccine is not always easy. With so many New Yorkers eligible and vying for appointments, it can feel, to some, like snagging a time slot is up to luck.
Broome County officials, however, say the rollout is improving, with more appointments and doses available around the area.
For people 60 or older, there are at least three places to look online for a vaccine appointment, including New York’s vaccination hub, county health departments and any one of several pharmacies.
Lisa Schule, Director of the Broome County Office for Aging, said the vast number of places to search can be a challenge for some seniors. Navigating the primarily online vaccine sign-up can be frustrating and overwhelming, especially for those who are not computer savvy. Websites crash or time out, and many spend hours refreshing pages that say appointments are unavailable. Although, that’s only if you know to do so.
“Just think, if you’re 75, 80 or 90 and it said ‘no appointments,’ that’s it. You would give up and you wouldn’t get an appointment,” Schule said. “Those are the people that we’re really trying to help, and we have been able to help.”
The office will hold a vaccine clinic at the Broome West Senior Center in Endwell this Friday with 300 doses. On Tuesday, Schule said there were plenty of slots available now that the rush for appointments has calmed down and more doses are coming to Broome County.
The office kept a list of over 400 people who wouldn’t be able to register for the vaccine on their own. Schule said each person on that list has been registered for an appointment over the last few weeks.
“A month ago we were struggling to get people into appointments, but that’s not the case anymore,” she said.
As of Wednesday, that group includes people over 60. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the change on Tuesday. Before that, only those 65 and older or in another eligible group, like essential workers or those with qualifying underlying conditions, were able to get the vaccine.
One in four Broome County residents is over the age of 60, and the population is aging, Schule said.
The Office for Aging focuses on assisting seniors who are more isolated and would not be able to sign up online. That includes those who don’t go on social media, where a lot of vaccine-related information is spread.
“What happens is by the time they see it on the news or in the newspaper, all the slots are gone,” Schule said.
Last month, the Office for Aging helped hundreds of people register each day. Inquiries made to 211 or the Broome County Health Department, two partners of the agency, are often redirected to its staff, although that has since subsided to roughly 50 each day.
As of Tuesday evening, close to 24 percent of Broome County residents, or 45,800 people had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 25,163 people are fully vaccinated. More than 19 percent of New Yorkers have received at least one dose.
The Office for Aging is partnering with Rite Aid to offer vaccinations to people 60 or older at the Broome West Senior Center on Friday. Eligible residents can register by calling the Office for Aging to register at 607-778-6133.
Transportation assistance to and from the clinic is also available through the agency’s partners, BC Transit and GetThere.