America’s Digital Divide Hampers Older Americans From Receiving Covid-19 Vaccine

By attorney Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C. serving Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Americans aged 65 and older are getting access to the vaccine, and some are using smartphone apps and online programs to streamline the process. Nevertheless, the digital divide remains, as many older people without smartphones or computers reportedly had difficulty making appointments online, particularly in Florida.

Research indicates the elderly, low-income populations, and rural areas have less access to high-speed internet and technology. Getting older Americans access to the vaccine should be a task than can be overcome, explains attorney Jeffrey J. Downey, who handles elder neglect and abuse cases.  There is also a growing racial disparity consistent with the disparity was see in our long term care system.

Here is what we do know with regard to that vulnerability:

  1. People 75 years and older are 8 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 and 220 times more likely to die than 18-28 year olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. In 2020, less than 3 million Americans received vaccines, far short than the goal sought by the Trump Administration.
  3. Fewer than half of seniors aged 80 or older report using the internet and only 28 percent have broadband service, according to the Pew Research Center, and just over 45 percent living in households earning less than $30,000 a year use the internet.
  4. CVS Health, will assist in providing 20-25 million shots per month to the public.

AARP, the nation’s leading interest group for those 50-years and older, says that there is a large discrepancy between low-income seniors compared to the general public in terms of owning technology.  And as in many cases in a crisis, the wealthy have found ways to jump the line.  The Washington Post reported than more than a few donors to hospitals in wealthy areas such as Palm Beach, have received notices that vaccines are available, and in some case, may have violated national immunization guidelines in the State of Florida.

Combining online access with other campaigns such as advertising drive-thru clinics through media saturation and mail-in campaigns to inform our vulnerable populations, would be a positive direction, explains Jeffrey J. Downey.  In Colorado, for instance, drive-through vaccinations clinics were able to inoculate senior from small and disadvantaged areas first.

While 98 percent of home and business in Virginia’s cities and suburbs have access to high-speed internet, one-third of Virginians do not, which about 11 percent of the Virginians with no internet access whatsoever, according to the Commonwealth Connect report on Northam’s proposal.

Virginia Governor Northam has made closing the divide a top priority during his time in office and set a goal of 10 years to achieve functionally universal broadband coverage.

In Maryland, around 14 percent of Maryland citizens lack any internet access or have dial-up internet access.

In the Nation’s capital, the internet numbers are above the mean, but those with lower income have less access to the information.

Across the country, 10 percent of US adult do not use the internet, according to a Pew Research Date study.  And those making 30,000 dollars or less annually, over 40 of the US population does not have access to the internet.

Our long term care system has done a poor job in protecting our vulnerable seniors from the ravages of the Corona virus, with some facilities experiencing contamination rates above 70%, explains Downey.  At this point the least we could do is make sure that all seniors get vaccinated quickly.

If you have more questions about this issue or if you or a loved one have been neglected or abused,  contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C., for a free consultation.

The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C.
8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810
Mclean, VA  22102
Phone:  703) 564-7318
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