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COVID-19

For people without internet service, getting a vaccination appointment can be difficult

Andy Uhler Mar 26, 2021
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"That internet access problem is actually affecting the people that we need to be vaccinated the most: older people, people of color and other folks who have been traditionally marginalized," said Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. Mario Tama/Getty Images
COVID-19

For people without internet service, getting a vaccination appointment can be difficult

Andy Uhler Mar 26, 2021
Heard on:
"That internet access problem is actually affecting the people that we need to be vaccinated the most: older people, people of color and other folks who have been traditionally marginalized," said Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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At his first news conference, President Joe Biden doubled his administration’s vaccine goal to 200 million shots by late April.

For many, scheduling a shot has become a high-stakes, intense undertaking — refreshing laptop screens, setting alerts. And it’s largely done online.

But what about those without internet access? What are their options?

Vivian Ho, a professor of health economics at Rice University in Houston, Texas, said a colleague of hers found out a member of the building’s cleaning crew didn’t have reliable internet access at home. So, Ho’s colleague pulled out a laptop and signed that person up then and there to get vaccinated. Because there aren’t many alternatives.

“You can go to the city’s website to get a phone number, but well, then you need the internet to get that as well,” Ho said.

Appointment systems that rely almost exclusively on the internet ignore that there’s a digital divide in this country, said Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.

“That internet access problem is actually affecting the people that we need to be vaccinated the most: older people, people of color and other folks who have been traditionally marginalized,” Turner Lee said.

She said governments need to be willing to bring remote internet access to homeless shelters, elderly care facilities and housing projects to make sure those folks get signed up for a vaccination.

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