LIFE Senior Services doesn’t have a call center, but many employees have dropped everything to ensure that older northeastern Oklahomans without access to internet or email can register for a COVID-19 vaccine through the state’s online portal.
“With this population, obviously, it’s really critical that we are able to get them vaccinated and that we have as few barriers for them as possible,” Eileen Bradshaw, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said Tuesday. “We’re making sure people know that they don’t get shut down by a lack of technological tools.”
Oklahoma is currently distributing vaccines to three subgroups within Phase 2 of the state’s priority population model: Oklahomans 65 or older, health care workers and first responders.
Of the first category listed, which also accounts for about 80% of Oklahoma’s recorded COVID-19 deaths, many don’t have internet access or an email address, both of which are required to independently access the state’s registration portal for COVID-19 vaccinations. Many callers on LIFE’s SeniorLine— 918-664-9000 or 866-664-9009 toll-free —have neither.
Although it might take a while for LIFE employees to be able to return the high volume of calls, Bradshaw said they will help all. The line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and voicemails left after hours will be addressed.
For callers who have email and internet access, employees can, much like the 211 service, walk them through the online registration process if need be, Bradshaw said, and explain a common problem: no confirmation message.
Bradshaw said the vaccine portal doesn’t have a confirmation message that pops up after one is finished registering, so many seniors have expressed concern that their registrations didn’t go through.
That confirmation comes to users via email 24 to 48 business hours later on average, alerting them that their registration has been processed.
Bradshaw said employees can take similar steps to register callers who don’t have email but who can use the email of a loved one or willing neighbor.
For those who don’t have email or anyone else to assist them, Bradshaw said employees have created an internal email account which they use for all such registrations.
When confirmation or appointment availability emails come in for callers, each with their unique identifying information, employees call the registrants individually, notifying them that their registration went through or that an appointment is available.
Bradshaw said she wished that each call could end in a scheduled appointment, but that the idea is not realistic. The state continues to receive limited shipments of the vaccine, and dosages are dispersed through many different health agencies and organizations.
Appointments fill up fast, but a new round of scheduling should be available on the portal every Thursday.
Bradshaw said employees also try to watch social media for official notices of vaccine availability events in area towns, reposting such information on the Life Senior Services Facebook page or notifying callers in adjacent areas who are mobile.
“We definitely have seniors who are driving and ready to road trip,” she said. “They just want to know where to go.”