The damnedest thing is going on. Several highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have been created, tested, and produced, but there’s a problem of getting them into the arms of a desperate populace.
The problem is that distribution, unlike production, is up to the states. And that means bureaucrats. It isn’t that they’re slow, which many are, but far more that they’re insular. Their universe is themselves, and those just like themselves.
And so they think that everyone out there is computer skilled. They’ve devised a system in which older people are a first priority, and then required that registration for getting shots be entirely online. There may be octogenarians who work for the Geek Squad, but far more who don’t know what an app is, and whose keyboard skills are confined to pianos. And of course there are a great many who don’t own computers or iPads or smartphones. (This is true as well, for economic reasons, for people of all ages, whose eligibility for vaccines will soon be upon us.)
Right now, the old folks signing up easily are those with grandchildren who live nearby. For others there’s anxiety, frustration and delay.
Enlist volunteers with high online skills
There is a solution to this problem, and states should seize it right away. They should call for volunteers with high online skills. There are millions of them out there, and a great many looking for something to do. Respondents to the states’ request should be certified as able to assist others in this project — either through employment experience or actual testing. Their names and phone numbers should be put in a state assistance pool. That pool and its routing system should be accessible by phone, and without long delays on hold. Surely such a system can be devised.
The computer advisers should be available to answer questions and to help the eligible to register for vaccination. This can be done on the adviser’s own computer, if necessary.
It’s possible that many advisers will be willing to work for little or no pay. But the real cost of hourly wages would be far less than that of its delays or omissions in the vaccination effort.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s a better way of saving lives. State governments truly want to do this. So let’s just do it better.
David Lebedoff is a Minneapolis attorney and author.
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)