Like many seniors, Ruth and Michael Fineman, both 72, have found getting a COVID-19 vaccine to be an ordeal.
The Buffalo Grove couple have had trouble signing up for vaccination appointments online, a process that can involve using multiple websites and booking rapidly filled timeslots before someone else does. It can be challenging, even for those who are tech-savvy.
“I know everyone is doing the best they can,” Ruth Fineman said of the vaccine rollout efforts. “But it’s extremely frustrating.”
To aid Lake County seniors such as the Finemans overcome these and other vaccination challenges, Lake County Board member Marah Altenberg and others are putting together a virtual call center that will connect them with volunteers armed with knowledge and the technical know-how to help.
“The goal is to assist as many seniors as we can,” said Altenberg, a Buffalo Grove Democrat. “It is important they have access to people who can help them.”
The plan is to turn the county health department’s existing communicable disease phone number — (847) 377-8130 — into an information hotline for a few hours each week for seniors seeking vaccines. When a senior calls in during the allotted time, they can be routed to a volunteer for help.
Volunteers won’t have to leave their homes, making the system like a virtual call center.
Altenberg said the goal is to have volunteers standing by to help about three days per week for two or three hours at a time.
For the kickoff next week, volunteers will be available over the phone from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and from noon to 3 p.m. Friday. Altenberg said the schedule will likely change each week.
Buffalo Grove community organizer Carolyn Pinta, who runs BG Pride, was one of the first people asked to help get volunteers. In just a few days, she found more than 50 who want to help.
“I am thrilled to see somebody reaching out to help this specific group,” Pinta said. “It’s so sad that so many can’t get it.”
Luckily for the Finemans, they got the help they needed. By the end of the week, barring any further extreme weather, both Ruth and Michael Fineman will have received their first doses of the vaccine.
Ruth said she called a lot of people looking for help, and Altenberg was the only person who took the time to call back.
“I think what they are doing for seniors is the kindest thing,” Ruth Fineman said.
Altenberg said those interested in volunteering to help seniors get vaccinated should email her at MAltenberg@lakecountyil.gov. She said there will be training sessions for volunteers set up in the coming days.
This content was originally published here.