AUSTIN, Texas — The Travis County Democratic Party partnered with Austin Public Health to call seniors in Travis County to lend a helping hand with COVID-19 vaccine questions and pre-registration with APH.
"I understand that it's a daunting task, but it has to be a better way than how it's being handled now," said 66-year-old Jean Wilkins.
Wilkins said it took her a week to figure out how to pre-register to get the COVID-19 vaccine through APH.
"You have to get up and be on the phone at 8, talking to 311 and then if you can talk them into transferring you to the hotline, you don't get the busy signal, then it was an hour-and-a-half wait," said Wilkins.
Finally, after pre-registering, she got an email from APH giving her the go to schedule an appointment, but she ran into more difficulties and website glitches.
An APH spokesperson acknowledged that their nurse hotline created specifically for those who don't have internet access or need help registering for the COVID-19 vaccine has been clogged with callers. The spokesperson said people who are not in that category should not call the nurse hotline and instead check the FAQ page before calling.
Katie Naranjo with Travis County Democratic Party said a lot of seniors have difficulty navigating technology or don't have access, which is why they are partnering with APH to call the over 120,000 people in the county who are 65 years old or older.
"We can answer questions about how distribution is happening, who it's getting distributed to and how to get in line to get the vaccine," said Naranjo.
Using their database system filled with every registered voter in Travis county, they started making calls Thursday, focusing on the areas with the most need – southeast and northeast Austin.
The group reached 16,000 people using 65 volunteers. Naranjo said the phone bank is a non-partisan service and anyone can volunteer to make calls from their home. Volunteers will be trained before making calls.
"Being that guide for them so that they are able to access it is so important because they are desperate and they're scared and they are overwhelmed," said Naranjo. "We found a lot of people really appreciative that somebody took the time to call them to answer their questions.
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