A Framingham resident finally got a date Thursday afternoon after spending hours on the state website.
FRAMINGHAM – The process of getting an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine has been a nightmare for Nancy Hafkin.
The 78-year-old Framingham resident spent nearly four hours on Wednesday – the first day residents 75 and over could request an appointment – browsing the state’s website before landing a slot at Lowell Senior Center.
At least that’s what she thought.
On Wednesday evening, Hafkin received a call from the center telling him that the appointment had been canceled.
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âI absolutely couldn’t sleep,â she said. Hafkin spent three hours that night trying to make another appointment through the state’s website. Thursday morning, she had struck off.
State lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon demanded Governor Charlie Baker fix the complicated appointment system. Emergency legislation reportedly tabled by State Senator Eric Lesser D-Longmeadow on Thursday calls for a multilingual hotline and one-stop online registration for vaccinations accessible by desktop and mobile phone.
Baker told a press conference on Thursday that the high volume of people working to get appointments all at once made “a day frustrating, especially for those looking to make an appointment and didn’t could find some “.
In response, state officials added 35,000 meeting locations, including a total of 20,000 at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, and 15,000 at Eastfield Mall in Springfield and the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers.
Complaints are pouring in
The complaints come from thousands of residents aged 75 and over, a group that was recently placed at the head of the pack in Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
Wednesday was the first day the group could access the state’s website to make an appointment. Inoculations begin Monday.
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Poor planning on the part of the state is a problem, according to Grace O’Donnell, director / elder services at Framingham’s Council on Aging / Callahan Center. O’Donnell said the details of the date should have been worked out before the elderly were asked to make them.
O’Donnell believes a phone bank is needed and the state’s website should be multilingual. English is not the first language of around 15% of Callahan Center customers.
The Milford Senior Center receives 50 calls every day from residents asking about how to get vaccinated.
âWhoever is in charge of the immunization process has not made it easy for the elderly,â said Susan Clark, director of the center. “People are anxious and frustrated, and they should be.”
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Natick Select board member Sue Salamoff, 77, hopes her local health department will receive more doses so she doesn’t have to travel far to get the shot.
âIt’s mind-boggling how difficult it is to get a date,â Salamoff said.
The state is only providing 100 doses of the vaccine to communities like Natick who are currently classified as not being in the high-risk red zone for COVID-19. Additionally, these doses are only intended for those who live and work in Natick and fall under Phase 1 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan. It is a group that includes frontline healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities and first responders.
Nancy Dlott is on the verge of falling into the 75 and over category. At 74, Natick’s resident was told she was in the Phase 1 category because she was transporting the elderly to doctor’s appointments.
But for Dlott, the process of getting a date was frustrating. It has skipped the web at least 10 times and has remained blank until now.
âI’ll wait for something to happen. I’m not going to spend my days on the computer, âDlott said.
An exhausting ordeal
Hafkin has invested hours of his time online to secure a date.
The state’s website requires applicants to complete several screens of information before seeing a list of possible appointments. Seeing that none were available, Hafkin said she was kicked out and had to start the process all over again.
With a doctorate in history, Hafkin said she was a member of the first induction class at the Internet Hall of Fame, a virtual museum that recognizes those who have made extraordinary contributions to the Internet.
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She worries about people lacking her research skills as they attempt to navigate the maze of the state nomination website.
âYou have to have your ducks in order,â she said.
On Thursday afternoon, she finally got an appointment for February 11 at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield.
âIt’s only a 2 hour 10 minute drive each way (hopefully no snowfall),â Hafkin said via email.
Henry Schwan is a multimedia reporter for the Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 508-626-3964. Follow him on Twitter @henrymetrowest.