Local woman helps hundreds of seniors through tricky registration process for COVID-19 vaccinations

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The online process of trying to register and schedule an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t been easy for many seniors in Phase 1B.

“It’s badly designed, full of bugs, and it’s not user friendly,” said Raji Parameswaran, who had issues helping her elderly parents navigate Austin Public Health’s process. “It’s very frustrating for seniors, even when they see appointments are open.”

Parameswaran says once her mother and father were able to get appointments, getting the first vaccine dose went smoothly. However, trying to sign up for their second doses has proved challenging.

Following her parents’ experience, Parameswaran decided to help some friends’ parents. It wasn’t long before others caught wind of that.

“Everybody somehow thought that I was this vaccine genie,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Well, no, I’m not. I just keep checking!'”

Word quickly spread online. Parameswaran shared to sites like Facebook and Nextdoor that she was willing to help anyone having issues.

Now she, her family and a group of friends check APH’s website constantly for new vaccine slots opening up.

“It’s all hands on deck for about two hours every time the portal opens,” Parameswaran said.

She uses the app WhatsApp to get the word out en mass.

“I’ve got about 1,200 people on various WhatsApp groups that I tell, ‘Okay guys, it’s open,'” she explained.

Parameswaran and those helping her are able to help hundreds at a time schedule their appointments and work through any glitches.

And for those who struggle a little more with technology, Parameswaran will do whatever she can to help.

As an example, Parameswaran explained, “Austin Public Health requires one email address per person. Many seniors have only one email address for the couple.”

That was the problem for 85-year-old Dr. Alexander Mourelatos and his wife. They didn’t know how to create an additional email account, so Parameswaran helped them make one.

“She’s so generous and so kind and so forgiving with people who are having difficulties,” Mourelatos said.

Parameswaran only hopes it’ll inspire others to do the same for seniors they know.

Look around for seniors around you, in your neighborhood, in your family, in your social media and just give them a call and say, ‘Hey, have you gotten your shot? Have you registered? Do you need help?'” Parameswaran said.

The city of Sunset Valley recognized Parameswaran for her work Tuesday evening and plans to help her streamline the process of getting more seniors help.

Meanwhile, APH announced Tuesday that it’s working to call some of the more high-risk people who’ve registered for the vaccine when appointments are available. Travis County also announced its staff will help make those calls and assist people having issues.

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