PHOTO: Although COVID vaccinations are now offered at multiple venues, older adults are having difficulty signing up for vaccine appointments.
By Genna Olavarri,
Yolo County Public Health officer Dr. Aimee Sisson announced on March 3 that 69 percent of adults in Yolo County age 65 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement came at the annual “town-gown” meeting between the city of Davis, UC Davis and Yolo County.
Retired Davis teachers Nancy and Steve Lege are among the residents who have received their vaccine. Their son works at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento. The hospital offered the vaccine to eligible family members of employees.
“(Our son) called us one day and said, ‘Oh do you want to come get the vaccine?’ We thought we would wait until later just because we figured essential workers … should get it first,” Nancy said. “But then we thought, you know if somebody offers you this, you should take it to help with the herd immunity.”
For some older adults in the community, finding a vaccination appointment has been much more challenging.
Davis High junior Adrian Zaragoza volunteered at a drive-through vaccine clinic. Zaragoza greeted people as they drove up.
“A lot of people were telling me that they had a really rough time making their appointment… because they don’t have internet access,” Zaragoza said.
To help overcome some of these hurdles, the Yolo County Library is loaning out hotspots as well as providing computer access by appointment.
Even for those who have access to technology, the digital divide, or the gap between those who can and cannot utilize technology, serves as an additional barrier for some seniors to making their vaccine appointments.
“You could have internet and give grandma a laptop but if she […] doesn’t know how to get it going, you still don’t have access,” said Shelia Allen, executive director of the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance, a program dedicated to supporting older adults in the community.
Other Davis residents eligible for the vaccine may have to contend with a language barrier.
DHS sophomore Nicole Risch lives with her parents and her grandparents, who are 75 and 79 years old.
“They’re from the Philippines so they don’t really understand. If they were to get the vaccine or wanted to get the vaccine, they would definitely need to go to my mom because she can translate everything for them,” Risch said.
The county is aware that “the language barrier is something we also have to consider,” said Jenny Tan, the Yolo County Public Information officer. In an effort to reach as many people as possible, the county is running ads in several languages.
According to Tan, one of the most challenging barriers moving forward will be what Allen calls “vaccine hesitance.”
“Once the majority of the population is vaccinated, it will be a huge effort to vaccinate the rest of the people who are hesitant to get it,” Tan said.
People may be “vaccine hesitant” for several reasons.
Risch’s grandparents, for instance, are concerned about side effects from the vaccine.
“They feel like there are going to be symptoms after they get the vaccine,” Risch said.
However, many people who have got the vaccine do not experience extreme side effects. According to data from the Center for Disease Control, 99.94 percent of people who received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine did not experience adverse effects (6,994 reported adverse effects out of 13,794,904 people who received a COVID-19 vaccine).
“I think there’s a common understanding that the second shot there’s more of a reaction. [Nancy and I] both definitely noticed it but it wasn’t something that was earth shattering or something to really avoid,” Lege said.
For anyone seeking a vaccine appointment, Allen recommends that people go to the Yolo County website and check if they are eligible for the vaccine through their health care provider. Alternatively, residents can call the county’s Yolo 2-1-1 number or the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance at 530-757-5583 for help booking an appointment.