Learn more about our FREE COVID-19 Patient Support Program for chronic illness patients and their loved ones.
Early in the pandemic, the Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) started an online COVID-19 Patient Support Program to provide news, information, advice, and support for people living with chronic illness. The program is free and you can still sign up here.
Members of our program have underlying health issues — such as inflammatory arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and more — that may increase their risk for COVID-19 complications. They are interested in understanding the best ways to stay safe during the pandemic and to be part of a community of people with similar concerns, questions, and fears.
We regularly poll members, who live in the U.S. as well as around the globe, about a variety of topics, including how the pandemic is affecting their lifestyle, mental health, chronic disease management, medication adherence, and more.
We use this information to inform the educational resources we provide and to inform other stakeholders — such as public health experts, policymakers, advocacy groups, health care professionals, and pharmaceutical companies — about chronic illness patients’ needs and concerns.
Here are the results of our poll about our members’ feelings towards the fairness of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine distribution.
Conducted: February 18-21, 2021
Number of respondents: 2,233
What We Asked
With a fragmented COVID-19 vaccine distribution system in the U.S. (and in other countries, such as Canada) there have been big variations in who can qualify to get the vaccine and/or access it. Depending on where you live, your age, what you do for work, and your underlying health issues, you may be facing different barriers to getting the vaccine. To better understand what these barriers may be for our chronic illness patient community, we asked a few questions about vaccine distribution fairness and barriers.
- Did you already get the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine?
Depending on the response, we asked different follow-up questions. If the respondent already got a vaccine dose, or had a scheduled appointment, we asked:
- In general, how difficult was it to schedule an appointment to get the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine?
If the respondent had not received a vaccine dose and had not schedule an appointment, we asked:
- Have you experienced any of the following problems with getting a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine or vaccination appointment?
We also asked all respondents:
- Do you believe the distribution of the vaccine has been fair for all groups?
In addition to these questions, we gave respondents the opportunity to share any additional thoughts about the accessibility of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
What We Learned
There were 2,233 total respondents to the poll. More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents already received their first vaccine dose; 12 percent have received both doses. Beyond that, 7 percent of respondents have an appointment scheduled, while slightly more than half (54 percent) have not had a vaccine or do not have one scheduled.
For those who have already received at least one dose of the vaccine or have made an appointment, nearly half (48 percent) said that they found it easy or very easy to make an appointment, while 39 percent said they found it difficult or very difficult.
More than half of respondents (54 percent) said that they do not qualify to receive the vaccine yet. Other common issues that prevented people from getting the vaccine included:
- All vaccination appointment in my area are booked (33%)
- Online vaccination scheduling doesn’t work well (23%)
- There aren’t vaccination sites near my home (10%)
- Do not know how to make an appointment (9%)
A combined 4 percent of respondents said their appointment to get the vaccine was cancelled or they have issues with accessing health care. Only 9 percent of respondents said they haven’t had any of the above problems, which could mean that they had other types of difficulties or just didn’t attempt to get a vaccine yet.
We were interested to know if respondents perceived the vaccine distribution process to be fair for all groups. A majority (63 percent) said they did not think the vaccine distribution process was fair. We provided respondents an opportunity to share their thoughts, and here is a sample of the responses:
- “High-risk patients have not been prioritized enough.”
- “No consideration for high-risk immunocompromised people. Feels like we are expendable, as per usual.”
- “It’s a problem when the ‘groups’ are different state to state.”
- “Marginalized communities need more support.”
- “People who do not have computers would not be able to schedule an appointment.”
- “Availability opened up to more groups before those who needed the vaccine were able to schedule.”
- “More affluent people where I live have access to the vaccine.”
- “Although I have chronic health conditions, I’m able to WFH [work from home] and thus am relatively protected from exposure. I was able to get the vaccine when others in more precarious circumstances are still waiting.”
- “I live in Florida. I am immunocompromised (have two autoimmune diseases) and am on immunosuppressive medications. [The governor] just announced phase 2 and ‘my’ group has been passed over again, in favor of teachers.”
- “My family is having difficulty getting my mother, who is 76 and cognitively impaired, to a vaccine appointment. We thought home care would give it to her, but she needs to go to a distant site such as a hospital or school and wait in a long line when she is actually unable to stand for long and suffers from incontinence. Those who are disabled and immunosuppressed are facing similar problems in Montgomery count in Maryland. No help and no appointments yet. Double negative.”
- “I do believe that people are pretending to be high risk when they are not and therefore are ‘jumping the queue,’ thereby taking appointment from legitimate high-risk individuals. There is no verification process and therefore people are not waiting their turn.”
What This Tells Us
When we gave respondents the opportunity to share additional thoughts about the accessibility of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, we received a wide range of feedback. One of the most common themes was the difficulty of getting a vaccine appointment. Many respondents expressed frustration with the vaccine scheduling process. Others said that their groups and/or conditions have been overlooked in the eligibility process. Here is a sample of the responses:
- “It has been difficult to find information about appointments, to schedule, and to get an appointment.”
- “It seems that because I live in a remote rural area, I have had easier access to rural health care and distribution. Friends who live in cities have had far more frustrating time delays getting appointment to get vaccines.”
- “It should just be easier to get an appointment. So many people cannot navigate the system.”
- “I am lucky the senior center in Dubois, Wyoming has done a great job in getting the vaccine out to residents. Then you see people on the news waiting for hours and get sent away. Getting the vaccine out there is a hard task.”
- “I’m on every list. I meet the guidelines but there I nothing available, ever. And when I know healthy people who are not medical, essential, etc., but have received, makes me very frustrated. Trying to set up for elderly who do not have internet is a disaster.”
- “I was surprised to find all appointments booked.”
- “It is very unorganized, ‘each man for themselves.’ I am trying to help anybody who is having difficulty signing up.”
- “I hope minorities, vulnerable populations like the homeless will all be able to get the vaccines. I’m sick of the disparities in this country.”
- “Please be patient. They are making progress. Continue to wear masks and social distance.”
- “I like what is being done now, but until recently the availability and distribution of the vaccine was not well planned. We still have a way to go before we get enough vaccinated to begin to return to some state of normalcy.”
The Global Healthy Living Foundation is committed to providing ongoing education about COVID-19 vaccines for the chronic illness and immunocompromised community.
To stay informed about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news for people who are immunocompromised, take immunosuppressant medications, or have autoimmune conditions, follow all of our COVID-19 vaccine coverage here.
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