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North Texas counties making changes to help elderly, at-risk communities with COVID-19 vaccine registration issues

Some elderly adults are finding the websites tough to navigate and others don't have internet access at all.

FORT WORTH, Texas — When Monica R. Alonzo got the first call from someone confused by coronavirus vaccine sign-ups, she figured she could help out a friend. 

“I got a call from a senior couple Hispanic and they said, 'We've been told this. We've been told that,'" Alonzo said. “I just went in there and [told them] it says this, and if you want to, I can help you, and he says, ‘Yes, and can you help my wife,' and can you help my, you know, and it went on and on.” 

Now, she’s signed up 47 mostly elderly Hispanic people in Dallas County. 

“They don't know where to go,” she said. “They don't know what to do and so they reached out to someone they knew.”

Dallas, Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties all have online sign-ups, and so do hospitals and pharmacies. 

RELATED: Where can I sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine? Here are some providers in North Texas that will alert you 

There's also a statewide provider site, so it is easy to get confused. 

Texas Health Resources' new vaccination sites in Tarrant County are pulling names from the county's waitlist. 

As of Tuesday evening, UT Southwestern and Parkland were pulling from their own patient rolls and sign-ups, while Dallas County's hub was using its online waitlist. 

“We’re just going to have to reach out to the community and get everybody informed,” said Tarrant County Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja.

Taneja said it’s not just knowledge but technology that’s a problem for many.

“A lot of people are either they don’t have the access to go online or when they get online, they get confused,” he said. 

They’re working on a possible reverse 911 system to call people in certain areas, and the registration phone line peaked at 17,000 calls one week. The number is 817-248-6299, option 7 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

So far, just 12% of those registered in Tarrant County are Hispanic or Latino in a county where that demographic is nearly 30% of the population. 

RELATED: 'We need to vaccinate everyone': Latino leaders push to get undocumented people vaccinated for COVID-19

Dallas County expects to have demographic information by the end of the week.  

“A lot of work is happening behind the scenes to start to address that gap, and it’s a true gap,” said Taneja.

Tarrant county officials says 10-12% of those registered are from outside the county. Dallas, Tarrant and Denton County Public Health are all allowing people outside of those counties register for vaccines. 

Denton County’s vaccine is a drive-thru to keep elderly residents from standing and distanced. 

Tuesday, Dallas County began allowing people to fill out vaccine registration paperwork while parked and using golf carts to shuttle people from cars to vaccination areas.

Dallas had an issue with an appointment link not working for some people, but the county is working to fix that issue.

“Only people 75+ are being vaccinated at Fair Park this week. DCHHS sent email invitation to individuals on our registration list who are 75+ inviting them to schedule an appoint,” a county spokesperson said. 

“Unfortunately, this link was shared on social media, community groups like NextDoor, and on other platforms. People who used the link found on one of these platforms do not have a valid appointment. These individuals, if they are registered on the county site, will be contacted when it’s their turn to schedule an appointment and should wait to be contacted by DCHHS. We are working to ensure the link cannot be shared so that this does not occur in the future.”

RELATED: Dallas County Judge says only people over 75 getting COVID-19 vaccines this week, clarifies 'third party' problem

Alonzo said people should inform and help neighbors as much as they can.

“If we don't do it, they're going to think that we don't need it and we do,” she said. “There's many people that want to get in line.”

“This is the guaranteed way to end this pandemic,” said Taneja.

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