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Digital divide disconnects KC's aging population from COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 9:20 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 23:54:06-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite the daily push for more people to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, at least 28,000 older adults in the Kansas City area are being left in the dark, according to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC).

"Many don't have internet access, broadband access in their neighborhood," James Stowe, director of MARC's aging and adult services department, said. "Many don't have connections, social connections, with people who are equipped to help them access the internet."

In response to the digital divide, health and elected officials have asked those affected to give them a call instead.

Many call centers for local government units, however, are "quite backed up," according to Stowe.

"That's not to say that that's not a good option," Stowe said, "But if people are searching around then a social services organization, especially an area agency on aging, or an affiliated organization, can help people sign up on the ready – We've observed some efforts being stood up through AARP, through many of the local public health departments. City governments are also making an effort."

Meanwhile, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas announced on Wednesday the formation of a task force to make sure the vaccine distribution is efficient and equitable.

"Tens of thousands of people can't sit on the phone all day and call 18 different places to put themselves on a list not knowing what the answer will be," Lucas said. "In essence, I think we've failed people so far in our messaging on that. This is us correcting it."

Moving forward, Lucas plans to ensure that messaging is disseminated through traditional forms like TV, radio, social media and word of mouth, in addition to having people on the ground in the city's zip codes where health disparities have been documented.

If you have questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas City and Wyandotte County, you are encouraged to call 311. In Johnson County, the hotline number is 913-715-2819. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services can be reached at 1-877-435- 8411.