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Community Health Free Clinic helps 65 and older schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments

On Tuesday, the clinic opened up a phone line to help those people schedule an appointment and get on their vaccine waitlist.
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 5:33 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For seniors unable to track down a COVID-19 vaccine themselves online, the Community Free Health Clinic in Cedar Rapids is ready to help.

The clinic opened up a phone line for those 65 years and older on Tuesday that helps people get on a vaccine waitlist.

Community Health Free Clinic CEO, Darlene Schmidt, said handwritten letters with information from people aged 65 and older were already dropped off to the clinic to get on the waitlist. She says that was before the phone line was even open.

She says by calling, those 65 years and older can get on a waitlist to receive a vaccine right at the clinic.

Schmidt says she knows people who spent hours online trying to get an appointment, but the process becomes too complicated for them. She says having help to get on the waitlist shows that people care and help is available.

”Well our phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to know if we would take their names because they don’t have a computer or family members to help them. So that’s been kind of rolling around in my brain of what should we do, and it just came to me. Let’s get a special phone line put in, lets get volunteers to answer that,” Schmidt said.

Once the clinic gets vaccines in from Linn County Public Health, they will call people on the waitlist to come in and get their shot right at the free clinic.

They will automatically sign people up for the second dose as well. On average, the clinic has been receiving 50 vaccines a week from Linn County Public Health.

10 to 12 volunteers will help answer the phone to get people signed up. The phone line operates Monday through Thursday, but only one call comes in at a time.

Christine Gochenoruer was the first volunteer to help answer the vaccination phone line, and has been helping at the free clinic since she retired nearly 14 years ago.

She’s excited to help get people on the waitlist because she knows there’s a lot of people unable to schedule appointments on a phone or computer themselves.

“I have friends who are very anxious because they keep calling the different pharmacies, and they’re not able to get on any kind of list. So this will be helpful,” Gochenoruer said.

Those 65 and older can call Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to get help from a volunteer at 319-200-2550.

To get on the waitlist, people will be asked their legal name, date of birth, mothers maiden name, address and two phone numbers to make sure they can be reached right away when a vaccine does become available for them.

Gochenoruer encourages those who do need help to call. If you have all your information ready to go, the clinic says getting on the waitlist should only take a few minutes. Having your information ready beforehand ensures the clinic can take as many calls as possible.

The clinic says they want to make sure patients are taken care of, and they understand the stress and anxiety scheduling a vaccine can cause on those without resources.

They hope this will help a lot of seniors in the community struggling to make an appointment themselves.

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