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In the first months of the vaccination campaign, Internet access was essential in finding a vaccination appointment.
But since more than 14 million people in the United States do not have reliable high-speed Internet access, the technology has been a barrier for some Americans.
To help bridge this digital divide, the Biden administration has launched a new immunization helpline for people who would prefer to get information over the phone. It’s part of the administration’s efforts to have 70% of adults in the United States vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4.
“We know millions of people in America do not have constant broadband access or are uncomfortable browsing the web,” Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith, who chairs the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force of the Biden administration. “Focusing fairness in our response to the pandemic, as the president has prioritized, requires us to meet people where they are,” Nunez Smith wrote.
By dialing 1-800-232-0233 from any phone, people looking for a vaccine can choose to speak to a call center representative who can provide information on places that offer vaccines. Support is provided in English, Spanish and many other languages. In addition, there is a TTY line for hearing impaired callers.
The hotline relies on digital vaccine research sites that have been running for weeks.
So far, the hotline has not been widely distributed to the public, although it has been up and running for about a week. The administration’s COVID team shared information on the hotline with community leaders and members of Congress, including the Congressional Rural Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, asking them to share the number with voters. Additionally, Nunez Smith shared information about the hotline with Made to Save, a group that works to increase access and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines in communities of color, asking the group to publicize this new tool. .
These outreach efforts have been targeted to reach communities that might be most likely to benefit from an additional option to locate a vaccination site, says Nunez Smith.
“The 1-800 number is in place to ensure that people who are not online (as well as people who do not speak English or Spanish) have access to all the information they need to make the decision to stay. themselves, their loved ones and the community safe by being vaccinated, ”she added.
Earlier this spring, the administration announced the launch of the COVID-19 Community Corps, a grassroots network made up of groups across the country aimed at encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.
At a Zoom event earlier this week with numerous Community Corps partners, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, along with two additional administration officials focused on the COVID-19 response, Andy Slavitt and Mina Hsiang, presented an overview of the range of tools to make vaccinations more convenient, including the new Immunization Assistance Hotline.
In addition to describing the 1-800-232-0233 hotline, additional tools for locating vaccination sites and availability include vaccines.gov (English) or vacunas.gov (Spanish) to search and find a vaccine nearby as well as ‘a tool text.
And last week, the federal government established two lines of text just to send localized information to nearby sites. To access these lines, send a postal code to 438829 (GETVAX) for English or 822862 (VACUNA) for Spanish.
During the Zoom call, Murthy highlighted the goal of getting millions more shots by July 4. “It will be a challenge,” he told the group. “We have to work harder. We have to have more conversations. We have to make the vaccine more accessible.”