Many people are confused as to whether or not a pre-existing condition qualifies them or their loved ones for a higher vaccination priority group. Due to the limited supply of vaccines at the moment and people’s desperate desire to protect their loved ones, some individuals are calling hospitals and health departments repeatedly hoping to obtain an “answer” as to whether their pre-existing condition qualifies them to move to a higher vaccination priority group.
Simultaneously, as vaccine doses are made available to a wider population, some people attempt to use all the tools (both phone and internet) at their disposal to schedule a COVID vaccine appointment for themselves or their loved ones. These actions are understandable as doses are limited and we all want to protect our loved ones from COVID-19. However, we must consider if these actions accidentally harm the most vulnerable of our society, those without the resources to call repeatedly to obtain vaccine information or appointments and those without the skills or technology to use online tools.
As more vaccine doses become available, health care providers monitoring pre-existing conditions and local hospitals may be tasked with vaccine administration. Thus, if you have internet access, technology skills, or a consistent relationship with a health care provider, consider the following:
1. Do you have the online health records patient portal with your medical providers and/or the nearest hospital? Patients are usually offered this access when checking out after an appointment. Examples of these portals include MyChart for Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, or MyPortfolio for the University of Maryland Hospital System’s Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie.
2. Does the beloved independently living older adult in your life have access to the online medical records patient portal with their specialists? If you or they do not have one, check the health care provider or local hospital website for instructions to create one. Google “hospital name or care provider patient resources” for instructions.
3. Do you or the beloved independently living older adult in your life know the username/password for the online health records portal? You can’t use these tools without it.
4. Once you have obtained access to your online medical records through the patient portal, it is important that you check your personal demographic data. If your landline phone number is listed, but you do not answer that phone, it’s time to update those records with a number you will answer. Double check that your personal data is as complete, accurate and up to date as possible.
Every person who can take the steps outlined here will help reduce the burden on health care workers responsible for vaccine administration. The health care provider/hospital’s scheduling office can now send an email alerting you to the availability of vaccines, turn on the online scheduler tool, and empower you to schedule your own appointment. Thus, everyone who follows these steps makes it easier for those without internet access to make the call to access the vaccine.
Casey M. Breslin, Ph.D.