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Democratic senators call on CDC to boost accessibility of vaccine scheduling for seniors

Democratic senators call on CDC to boost accessibility of vaccine scheduling for seniors
© Bonnie Cash

Six Democratic senators called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve and boost the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccine scheduling for seniors, as most appointments are made online. 

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar offers tribute to her father, who died Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill MORE (D-Minn.), signed a Tuesday letter addressed to CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Overnight Health Care: CDC says vaccinated people can take masks off indoors and outdoors | Missouri abandons voter-approved Medicaid expansion | White House unveils B plan to hire public health workers CDC says vaccinated people can take masks off indoors and outdoors MORE that requests the agency “consider all available options” to help seniors set up appointments to get their vaccines. 

Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Overnight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines Biden health official says COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be free MORE (D-N.H.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthBipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Duckworth says food stamps let her stay in high school If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume MORE (D-Ill.), Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Parler app risks charges of selling out with Apple return | Justices hear First Amendment clash over cheerleader's Snapchat | Google pressed to conduct racial equity audit Lawmakers introduce legislation to create civilian reserve program to fight hackers Bipartisan Senate proposal would grant million to minority businesses MORE (D-Nev.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Sharpton eulogizes Daunte Wright: 'Tags of racism' have expired Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill MORE (D-Minn.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Democratic fissures start to show after Biden's first 100 days Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster MORE (D-Mont.) and Mark KellyMark KellyDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Pavlich: The border crisis Biden said we could afford Arizona governor signs controversial election bill into law MORE (D-Ariz.) signed the letter. 

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The Democrats cited that more than 80 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the country so far having occurred among those 65 or older, according to CDC data. The impact on the older population influenced a CDC advisory committee to recommend that seniors be prioritized in getting the vaccine.

But many seniors do not have broadband access or use the internet often, leaving them at a disadvantage when trying to get their vaccine appointments. The senators accuse the current appointment systems of “exposing a critical generational digital divide that threatens to limit access to vaccines for some of the most vulnerable populations.”

“The CDC plays a critical role in overseeing the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is uniquely positioned to work with states to implement effective and equitable systems to schedule and administer vaccines,” the senators wrote. 

“We urge the CDC to consider all available resources to ensure that people can navigate and access vaccine scheduling systems, and we look forward to working with the Administration to ensure the success of a federally-supported vaccination website and call center to address some of the barriers to accessing vaccines,” the letter continued.

The senators point to statistics that almost 22 million American seniors lack broadband access at home and that 1 in 3 seniors in the U.S. does not use the internet, adding that many of those who do “struggle to use it effectively.”

Online appointment portals across the country, including in Washington, D.C., had drawn scrutiny for technical failures earlier this month as users dealt with crashing websites and disappearing appointments, although governments and tech companies were making improvements.