Local senior recounts her COVID-19 vaccination sign up struggle

RICHLAND, Wash — The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine seemed to be the beginning of the end of the pandemic for most people. But for seniors and other elderly people in the Tri-Cities, it seems to have brought new problems.

69-year-old Richland resident, Susan Osmundson, said it took nearly a week to secure a coronavirus vaccination appointment due to “lack of information.”

Osmundson said she had to go through multiple websites and healthcare providers, spending hours calling different numbers, just to get a clear answer on when she could receive her vaccine. She even got up early Tuesday morning and braved the snow and freezing temperatures at the Benton County Fairgrounds to try to receive the first shot.

“I got up at 4 o’clock this morning and got in my car at 4:30. Then, I took off to the fairgrounds and got in line where I was the 16th car.” Osmundson said. “It’s thirty four degrees, you know. We’re older people, for the most part, that are eligible to get the shots now. We can’t do that and wait outside, you know that’s just ridiculous.”

But after several hours of waiting, she was turned away by a worker who said even though she was eligible, she couldn’t get her vaccine because she didn’t have a preregistered appointment.

Osmundson said it’s because of the lack of communication to seniors that she didn’t know one was even required.

She added that she is the “tech-savvy” one of her friends but can’t imagine what it’s like for elderly folk who don’t have Internet access or the resources to schedule a vaccination.

“Most of my friends only have flip phones. They’re going to lose months of their life when they could be safer,” Osmundson said.

This wasn’t the first time Osmundson had tried to get the vaccine either. She had previously gone to Tri-Cities Community Health but noted there were dozens of people clustered together “like sardines” so it didn’t feel COVID-19 safe due to lack of social distancing.

“The line went all the way around the block,” Osmundson said. “Also, it’s freezing outside. I can’t stand outside that long and most elderly people can’t either.”

She added that she wished the state and local health officials had created a solid plan to avoid any trouble.

“Everybody at state and federal and county level has known for months has known that this vaccine is going to have to be distributed. Why do they not have a plan in place?” Osmundson said. 

As an older person who has lived alone this entire pandemic, Osmundson said she was really excited to get the vaccine so she could “meet up with other vaccinated friends just so we can hug” but she will continue to stay strong.

“It’s very sad that we’ve lost so many people. I don’t want to be one of them, so I’ll do whatever I have to,” Osmundson said. 

If you don’t have Internet access, call the COVID-19 vaccine assistance hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press the # sign for help:

• 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon – Fri
• 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat and Sun, and observed state holidays.

To preregister for your vaccination, click here.

For Washington vaccine information, click here.