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'There continues to be a lot of confusion' | Registration systems, 'digital divide' bringing issues for getting vaccine

A Montgomery Co. councilman spoke to WUSA9 about the need for a centralized registration system as many remain frustrated or confused trying to get a vaccine.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — With many people around the region feeling confused and frustrated trying to get registered for a COVID-19 vaccine, a Montgomery County councilman continued a call on Tuesday for a centralized registration system to improve efficiency and equity.

The call came hours after Gov. Larry Hogan announced more mass vaccination sites would open around the state. 

Despite the potential progress to get more people vaccinated, many have experienced issues when trying to sign up for an appointment.

"Every day, we’re getting a lot of constituent calls from people expressing frustration," Montgomery County Councilman Gabe Albornoz said. "It’s just led to immense confusion, disorientation and frustration."

Albornoz highlighted how the pharmacies, hospitals and government clinics offering vaccines all use different sign-up systems.

On Tuesday, the county councilman told WUSA9 that using a centralized registration system could help more people in high-risk categories or hard-hit areas get the vaccine.

"It’s a public health responsibility for us to ensure that we get to the areas that have the highest concentrations of cases," he said. "The county has to do a better job and work collaboratively with those institutions to be able to get the vaccine out.”

RELATED: 'We don’t have the doses' | Prince George's Co. group and congressman express concerns about Maryland vaccine rollout

Aside from registration challenges, Albornoz said the "digital divide" over access to fast internet and technological devices was impacting vaccinations.

According to the county councilman, senior citizens and people not as technically savvy as others were facing greater challenges trying to register.

"People who don’t have the same access to the internet, don’t have the amount of time to be able to spend refreshing their computer every hour," he said. "There are a number of homebound county residents who, even under the best of circumstances, have a hard time accessing vaccination sites." 

The challenges with digital access can also be felt in Northern Virginia.

After seeing his mother experience issues while trying to sign up for registration, Chris DeMay noticed how it could be tough navigating through various sources and posts to find relevant information on vaccinations. 

"I saw a lot of contradictory information and a lot of disparate sources reporting the best path for people," said DeMay, who lives in Chantilly. "There’s just a lot of confusion and there didn’t seem to be a centralized place to get all the latest information."

In response, DeMay created the "NoVa Vaccine Hunters" Facebook page to allow others to post information about available appointments, updates on eligibility, and clarifications on guidelines.

While the page slowly started attracting other users after DeMay created it in mid-February, it now has over 3,600 followers.

"Those who are eligible and should have access to the vaccine need to have a stress-free way to find it," he said. "We’re talking about people’s health. We’re talking about the ability for us to get back to our normal lives."

For now, Maryland leaders hope more mass vaccination sites can help lead to more people in the state getting vaccinated. 

Moving forward, Albornoz believes an increase in vaccine doses would greatly help the public health situation in the weeks and months ahead.

"More vaccines are entering into the market so that inevitably will allow us to enter into the next phases," he said.

RELATED: Poll: Vaccine hesitancy may be more political than racial

RELATED: Maryland won't receive more Johnson & Johnson vaccines for a few weeks, Gov. Hogan says

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