Vaccine help for seniors: Orland Park, North Chicago, Palos Park work to bridge digital divide

PALOS PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Some Chicago suburbs are trying new ways to help seniors register for COVID-19 vaccines in Cook County.

Helping to bridge the digital divide. It's been a week since the Village of Orland Park offered their computer skills to seniors having trouble making their own vaccination appointments. Since then, pretty much anyone who answers the phone has learned to go through the registration process with callers.

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"They will actually type everything and do everything and at least get them signed up," Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said. "Sometimes we can get them an appointment if the timing is right, but at least we get them signed up for a vaccine."

Over 750,000 people 65 and older have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Illinois so far, nearly 40% of those getting the shot. But advocates say navigating the various scheduling systems continues to be a source of confusion and frustration.

"I actually helped my own parent, try to get an appointment," said Courtney Hedderman, with AARP Chicago. "I had five devices in front of me. And I kept refreshing and refreshing. It took me two hours to get her an appointment."

Transportation and access is another problem. On Tuesday, North Chicago opened a temporary vaccination clinic specifically for seniors who can't easily get to sites further out in Lake County.

We have to do some things differently," Hedderman said. "We have to meet people where they are."

In nearby Palos Park, where the police department regularly checks on seniors who live alone, they also realized the need to help people register. The chief himself has offered his help and that of other "tech-saavy" officers for those needing to navigate the process.
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