PHILADELPHIA, PA — Pennsylvania seniors take note. The new COVID-19 booster vaccine that targets mutated versions of the virus is now available in time for colder weather, the flu season and Thanksgiving get-togethers, with the cost covered by health insurance or government assistance.
For seniors, the booster is especially relevant, as older adults are more likely to get serious complications from COVID-19 than younger people. “The risk increases with age,” the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises. “This means they are more likely to need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they could die. Most COVID-19 deaths occur in people older than 65.”
The good news is that senior residents of Pennsylvania have outperformed other commonwealth residents in COVID-19 vaccination compliance in the past, according to the CDC. Seniors showed 95% vaccination for both dosages of the first vaccine versus 73.8% for the general public, and 46.2% coverage versus 18.9% for the first booster. (data last compiled May 2023).
Although there are no data available yet on the latest booster, a survey conducted in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows nearly two-thirds (64%) of people 65 and older said they would definitely or probably get the booster, versus 46% of the total population.
To help promote vaccinations, the federal government provides an online guide to identify COVID-19 vaccine locations at drug stores and public health centers. https://www.vaccines.gov. But such an approach leaves some elderly especially at risk, notes Tobey Dichter, founder and CEO of Generation on Line (GoL). “Technology timid seniors, unfortunately, may not avail themselves of this useful tool because of lack of awareness, skill, and access.
“This is just one example of digital inequality,” says Ms. Dichter, “where the benefits of Internet-based information that should be universal aren’t. That’s why Generations on Line created a Vaccine Finder Tutorial funded by a COVID-19 Outreach Grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Available at no cost at golhelp.org/vaccine, this step-by-step on screen training includes a basic level for those with little or no Internet literacy and a practice simulation that prepares users to easily access the government’s vaccine finder site, for all smartphones or tablets.
This self-paced simulation takes no more than five minutes to guide a user through the practice site. At the end, there is a link to the CDC’s actual site where the user can perform a real search and schedule an appointment. Since its introduction this year, the tutorial has been used by nearly 10,000 people.