As more people become vaccinated, there is growing urgency to help seniors get their vaccines before they need to compete with an even larger pool of eligible people.
Across the country, some seniors are so disconnected that they do not know they are eligible. Others might know, but they do not have the internet service, computers or email accounts to set up an appointment. And in some cases, transportation is the issue.
Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, recently announced there are still 1.8 million seniors in the state that have yet to get the vaccine.
“The most common thing we found is just the need for computer literacy to efficiently get the vaccine, especially in the beginning,” said Jacqueline Teague, a high school sophomore in Louisville, Kentucky.
Since November, Teague and her 14-year-old cousin, Amelie Beck, have been helping seniors in the greater Louisville area sign up for vaccines.
“It’s been 2,000-plus emails and calls,” said Beck. “I think it’s been 950-plus people vaccinated or scheduled to get vaccinated.”
For these two, their mission started organically. Their grandparents called for help navigating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, so they knew how to sign up for a vaccine. They referred the duo to some of their friends and now it has become a family operation that has helped fill a need on a scale most would not expect of a few high schoolers.
“It has grown and so we’ve had to definitely train siblings to help out,” said Teague.
“The most important thing is just the human connection of talking to another person because a lot of the senior citizens don’t quite get that through the technology, so I think that’s the most helpful thing that we offer,” added Beck.
In between classes, the cousins spend 2-3 hours a day taking calls, making drives and scheduling appointments so those who have fallen through the cracks can get a vaccine; one that might save their life, while enriching those of these two.
“Definitely, I think our goal is to not be needed anymore,” said Teague. “I mean we want to help as much as we can, but in the end the goal is just to get as many people helped as possible.”