The pandemic, shamefully, has laid bare clear healthcare disparities.
Among them: Blacks and Hispanics have been more likely to get sick and die from COVID-19 than Whites. And wealthy or well-connected people have been able to secure access to lifesaving COVID-19 treatments as well as testing and vaccines easier than their counterparts down the income ladder.
It now appears another disparity may be emerging: a divide in access to the vaccines between seniors with social supports and those without. A Kaiser Health News article pointed out this phenomenon.
“I’m very concerned that barriers to getting vaccines are having an unequal impact on our older population,” Dr. XinQi Dong, director of the Institute for Health, Health Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University, told the news outlet.
The article noted that seniors with family members who make appointments are getting the vaccine in greater numbers than those without these social networks. Those seniors who can drive or get rides are also more likely to receive the vaccines. And older adults who can navigate the internet are more likely to book appointments.
And perhaps no surprise: These access issues appear to have more negative effects on Blacks and Hispanics, as well as those living in low-income neighborhoods and other more disadvantaged groups.
This is sad. Like the disproportionate way the virus has affected residents in nursing homes, this new disparity represents yet another way that seniors — and especially those who are people of color or poor — are being overlooked.
Something clearly needs to be done about this. A couple of ideas: Our healthcare system will have to find new ways to reach these people — be it through phone calls, reaching out to family members or (heaven forbid) house calls. And for those of us who might know an elder who might be socially isolated at home, it may be worth going out of our way to check on them.
This is no time to relent. For this last phase of the pandemic, the time to step up is now.
Liza Berger is Editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Follow her@LizaBerger19.