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Mon Ami partners with Montgomery County Department of Health to help older adults register for vaccine appointments by phone

On February 24th, the Montgomery County of Pennsylvania announced a new vaccine registration hotline, in partnership with Mon Ami, for residents who don’t have access to internet or technical skills to navigate the county’s online COVID-19 vaccination website. Mon Ami’s technology will allow the County’s trained volunteers to register older adults and others for vaccine appointments by phone.  

For many states across the country, COVID-19 vaccine registrations are online-only, meaning seniors or those without technology, internet, or the tech literacy to register online are being left behind. Currently, over 1.4 million shots are administered per day, yet prioritizing who gets vaccinated is still a logistical challenge that results in more doses being distributed to states rather than people, especially the elderly.   

According to Bloomberg, one New York City system asked elderly users to take photos of their insurance card, front and back, and upload them. Seniors who are alone and can’t turn to their children for support are helpless in this case and the numbers don’t lie. The AARP in New York, reported that almost 60% of the nearly 3,000 people they surveyed failed at getting an appointment. The nation needs to do better.

With the Montgomery County’s vaccine hotline, residents who pre register for a vaccine by phone will also be contacted by volunteers by phone when the vaccine is available to make an appointment for administering the vaccine. The trained volunteers supporting this project see this as an opportunity to change lives together. Ginny Vandenburg, a Souderton resident and volunteer, says, "My grandmother lives at Dock Woods and hasn't been able to spend time with family in months. After surviving and recovering from COVID, she finally received her vaccination and it's given her hope that she may soon be able to see her great-grandchildren again! I volunteered because I want other seniors to have that same hope."

Under this system seniors won’t have to worry about competing for rapidly disappearing shots or waking up at the break of dawn to only have a chance at securing an appointment. “This will ease [seniors] minds. They have been socially isolated because they’re afraid to get out,” says Doreen Hespell, administrator of the Office of Senior Services, adding the phone pre-registration program will make the vaccination process more equitable. “It works in sync with the health department’s (online) link that everybody else is using so it’s equal. It makes it a very equitable process.”

How it works

Montgomery County serves 150,000 older adults in need of vaccine registration support. It took three weeks for Mon Ami to partner with the county to launch the emergency vaccine hotline. Through the hotline, calls from seniors are routed to unlimited volunteers “on shift” who can take calls from their own devices at home.

Volunteers will fill out registration waitlist forms for seniors on their behalf which is directly integrated with the County’s vaccine registration list. Once appointments are ready to be scheduled, volunteers will call seniors back for appointment scheduling and reminders. Mon Ami’s hotline technology obscures personal contact phone numbers, so volunteers and seniors can receive and make calls without revealing their personal contact information.

Mon Ami’s mission is to build equity in the registration process through our emergency vaccine hotline technology. No senior should have to struggle to register for a vaccine due to unfamiliarity with smartphones, the internet, or web-based appointments. By driving registrations for vaccinations, collectively we can help reduce the prevalence of social isolation for a vulnerable population. “It will get them back into routine, give them some relief knowing once they go out they won’t have to be so afraid. There are a lot of benefits to them getting vaccinated,” Hespell said.

If you are a Montgomery County resident who wants to volunteer for the project please visit the Montgomery County Office of Senior Services website at www.montcopa.org/148/seniorservices.

If you are a resident of the county aiming to get vaccinated, please call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at (833) 875-3967 to connect with a volunteer who can assist with pre-registering you for a vaccine.