Facebook’s vaccine hunters are helping Americans get vaccinated

Volunteers are playing matchmaker across the country.

Jabs are going into arms at a rate of millions per day, as the world races to build a bulwark of immunity against a mutating coronavirus.

But with each new vaccine authorization and shipment — and they’re starting to arrive like the climax of Endgame now — comes a vexing problem: how to match people with shots.

Across the U.S., people face confusing or crashing state systems, and the very people who need the vaccine most — seniors — often don’t have the access to the internet or technological know-how to fight their way through it.

Stepping into this chaotic scene are groups of vaccine hunters organizing on Facebook, helping to match vaccine appointments with qualified people who are struggling to find them.

“I was desperate to find a way to get a shot,” Jane Didear, 67, told Dallas’ ABC affiliate WFAA. “The vaccine is key for me.”

Didear had been trying to get a shot for four weeks, WFAA reported, when a post on DFW COVID Vaccine Finder, a group of volunteer vaccine hunters in the area, posted about an opening at UT Health Tyler, about an hour and a half away. 

Didear signed up and got her first shot. 

Vaccine hunters are organizing on Facebook groups across the country. In Chicagoland, one of the largest U.S. metro areas, the Chicago Vaccine Hunters have helped over 200 people get shots, WGN reports

The Maryland Vaccine Hunters group — inspired by New Orleans’ Nola Vaccine Hunters — has over 50,000 members, per MarylandReporter.com; in southeast Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia, PA COVID Vaccine Matchmaker was poetically born during the winter’s snow storms that snarled vaccination efforts.

“It started with a snowstorm actually. Our team was working from home so I asked everybody to just get online and help patients get vaccine appointments while they were working from home,” Christine Meyer, a doctor in Chester County, told Fox 29 Philadelphia.

With each new vaccine authorization and shipment comes a vexing problem: how to match people with shots.

The vaccine hunters seem to come from all walks of life. Benjamin Kagan — age 14 —  designed his own spreadsheet and has personally seen to it that 115 people in the Chicago area got vaccinated.

“I’ve learned all the different sites. I know, you know, this place drops at midnight, this place drops at 9 p.m., this place you have to put in that zip code, and it’s all these weird tricks that you sort of pick up along the way,” Kagan told WGN.

Maryland Vaccine hunters has grown beyond matchmaking to becoming something of a vaccine information clearinghouse, group founder Elliot Hazzard told MarylandReporter.com. 

Even still, getting access to vaccine hunters on Facebook can still prove challenging. Hazzard said he encourages Maryland Vaccine Hunters members to reach out to people in their community who lack broadband access or who may be uncomfortable on, or unfamiliar with, social media. 

Groups of vaccine hunters are organizing on Facebook, helping to match vaccine appointments with qualified people who are struggling to find them.

As Dallas’ ABC affiliate and WGN point out, turning to vaccine hunters on social media is not without some risk; postings should be verified, social security numbers kept close to the chest, and unsolicited vaccination offers ignored.

But it is difficult to not see the overwhelming upside of vaccine hunters getting shots into arms.

“It’s really just been a demonstration of the goodness of people to be honest with you,” Meyer told Fox 43 in York, PA.

 “Honestly, I would cry just talking about it. And, people do, people do. People literally cry.”

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