By Mike Allen
February 20, 2021 (Santee) - The city of Santee is helping seniors who are having difficulty scheduling appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations, creating a program aimed at bridging the digital divide.
“What we’re trying to do and have done is help our senior population get their requests for vaccination appointments,” said Justin Matsushita, deputy fire chief for Santee Fire Department. “We’re not doing the vaccinations but are connecting the dots between those giving the vaccinations and those who need it.”
The Santee Vaccination Outreach Program held its first session at the Meadowbrook Mobile Home Park Feb. 13 and is holding its second session this Sunday, Feb. 21 at the New Frontier Mobile Home Park, 9255 N. Magnolia Avenue from 2 to 4 p.m.
To be eligible you do not have to be a resident of the park, but must be at least 65 years old.
Although many seniors may own smartphones and other mobile devices that link to the Internet, some aren’t able to navigate the sometimes confusing websites that have been created to first, screen those eligible for the shots, and then direct them to the sites where they obtain the shots, Matsushita said.
“People get intimidated by the systems,” he said. “They might have smartphones and other digital devices but getting to those websites can sometimes be difficult.”
The program was put together this year by the city of Santee and its fire department in conjunction with the East County Community Emergency Response Team, a group of trained volunteers who work with the cities of Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
“We were asked by the Santee Council how we might help the seniors who were in the first tier of those eligible for the vaccinations, but were having a hard time making appointments,” Matsushita said. “There’s this gap that exists (in familiarity with technology) countywide, statewide, and nationwide….We found what we believe is the best solution.”
Essentially, the program volunteers sit down with the seniors seeking help, and make appointments for them. At the first session, 13 residents of Meadowbrook, all above 65 years of age, were able to find appointments, mostly at Cuyamaca College. The program also helps line up transportation to and from the vaccination sites.
While the Covid-19 vaccination sites were delivering higher numbers of shots leading up to this week, the delivery of the vaccines recently was slowed by the winter storms throughout the nation and by an obvious glitch in the production process, according to many news reports.
“The challenge right now is that there’s simply not the quantity of vaccines in San Diego County that we all want and need….and that translates to limited appointment availability,” Matsushita said.
For future dates and locations for the outreach program, call the city at (619) 258-4100.
Mike Allen writes about government agencies and other topics for East County Magazine, mainly covering the Santee City Council. Among the newspapers he’s written for are the San Diego Business Journal, San Diego Daily Transcript, the Vista Press, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He has won numerous journalism awards including a fellowship to the Stonier School of Banking by the American Bankers Association while employed as a financial reporter. He is a graduate of Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y. where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. He now lives in Santee.
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