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New York City Seniors Struggling Through Confusing Process Of Registering For COVID-19 Vaccine

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Seniors have joined the list of those qualified to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but the simple shot in the arm has not been so easy to get for many of our older New Yorkers, who are finding the process confusing.

Some of the city's most vulnerable lined up at sites across the city Monday for what they hope is a life-saving vaccine, CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported.

Harris Ton brought his 85-year-old mother, who has lung cancer, to the new vaccination center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

"I feel great. I feel very excited," Ton said.

But the eagerness for many New Yorkers over age 75 to be included in Phase 1B was met with confusion. Some showed up at vaccination sites, like the one at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, not knowing they needed to register and make an appointment.

"I don't know what we're supposed to be doing," one senior said.

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A frustrated Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker and her husband had registration papers and came to the 24/7 site at the Army Terminal eager for a shot, but the Canarsie couple was turned away.

"I'm not happy right now. I just spent all this time to come here. I'm not allowed to go in," the husband told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Even seniors who showed up with help were lost.

Senior advocate Annette Fisher said she registered her clients online, but the website was confusing.

"It gave all three recipients , so I said, OK, guess we come here and wait on line. Maybe that's their idea of making a scheduled appointment. It didn't say, now go make another thing to get a date," Fisher said.


Brooklyn resident Walter Costas said he is worried because he doesn't have a computer to register for the vaccine.

"Gotta take my granddaughter or daughter to make an appointment," Costas said.

Some who managed to make an appointment still ran into problems. Teacher Jackie Spitzer got an email saying not to arrive more than five minutes before her slot, but when she got to the South Bronx Educational Campus the line wrapped around the block.

"Now, I go and it doesn't matter. It's first come, first serve," Spitzer said. "It was like 33 degrees today, so we were all just standing going two hours."

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi announced the city is launching a senior outreach program and a hotline number -- 1-877-VAX-4NYC -- where people can register over the phone. It's an effort to make sure they reach seniors who may not have access to the internet.

"We'll also be doing more proactive outreach with robocalls to seniors to guide them to the places that they need to get to, including our hotline, to be able to understand how to sign up for an appointment slot," Chokshi said.

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Hospital groups, including Mount Sinai Health System, have instructed physicians to reach out to their senior patients as well.

"We've also done some communications with various community leaders," Dr. David Reich said. "Our hope is through those connections as well that we'll get that message out there."

The city is urging all New Yorkers to do their part by reaching out to qualified seniors in their lives to make sure they know the vaccine is available and where they can get it.

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez and Jessica Layton contributed to this report


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