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Volunteers worry seniors will struggle even more to get vaccine in Washington state

A group helping senior citizens get vaccinated is worried that the elderly community will face a harder time finding appointments now that educators are eligible.

TACOMA, Wash. — A group working to help senior citizens get vaccinated in Washington state is worried that the elderly community will have more trouble finding appointments now that educators are eligible.

The group, made up of retired Tacoma teachers and other volunteers ,have been booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments for seniors since early February.

So far, the volunteers have helped hundreds of seniors across 16 Washington counties, even reaching people in Yakima County and Vancouver.

Carolyn Ho is a retired teacher who said she's happy for educators, but nervous about what this means for seniors.

"How much harder is it going to get?" Ho said. "It seems like they ought to save something back or hold something or put something aside for seniors, because, you know, the younger people are going to get the appointments quicker."

A University of Washington professor who studies COVID-19 projections said the move to make educators eligible is a good one.

"Remember, right now, we vaccinated almost all the elderly population in our state," said Dr. Ali Mokdad with UW's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

However, volunteers said the remaining seniors still need all the help they can get.

"We've advocated for ways to communicate with older folks that doesn't involve the internet," volunteer Susan Schreurs said. "If you don't have a computer, if you don't have a laptop, if you don't have internet, you can't find the phone numbers. So where are you to go to find the phone number to call it the state?"

Retired teacher Bonnie McGuire said reaching out to seniors and other marginalized communities is the group's top priority.

"We need people to find people and help them," McGuire said.

Senior citizens who need help booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments can email vaccinebookers@gmail.com to reach the group of volunteers.