Updated: March 26, 2021 06:11 PM
Created: March 26, 2021 05:28 PM
The new COVID-19 vaccine hunter Facebook groups popping up across the country all have the same mission: connecting as many people as possible who qualify to get the COVID-19 vaccine by offering the tools and guidance needed in what can be a very daunting task.
"We're helping eligible people stay up to date on where they can find a vaccine whether that's community clinics, pop up clinics, mass vaccination sites that the state is opening, or even places like Walgreens or Walmart," said Kayla Schaffer, the moderator of the Wisconsin Vaccine Hunters and Angels Facebook group.
"I started taking information from other websites and from people and anything I could find that might help people and just putting it all in one place so that people could use that to find vaccination appointments. The first time somebody commented saying they found a vaccination appointment because of something on this page, it just it made me keep going and now there's tens of thousands of people in this group," said Maura Caldwell, the founder of the Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters Facebook group.
These community-driven groups have played a crucial role in getting so many more people vaccinated. Members of these groups say it has been a live saving effort.
"Getting the vaccine was something that was super important for me to help my 92-year-old grandmother who lives in Duluth get her vaccine and my parents who are caretakers for her and then of course ourselves. I was jumping on any resource I could find to try to get on the hunt for them. I stumbled upon this group and it has been such a blessing," said Trina Greene, a member of the Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters Facebook group.
"When I found this group I was just working trying to get my son a vaccine and this weight was lifted off my shoulder finding that," said Teri Dary, a member of the Wisconsin Vaccine Hunters and Angels Facebook group.
These vaccine hunters take a deep dive into finding appointment dates, times, and sites -making sure no vaccine goes to waste.
"People are able to see in real time when these appointments are available because just by seeing a list of the pharmacies that have options doesn't show you when you can book those options because by the time you see them they're probably all booked. Just having somebody that you can ask those questions to and have 40,000 people who might know the answer be able to help you is super helpful," said Caldwell.
The online groups have also served a bigger purpose by being a huge support system in a time of need, fear, and isolation by providing tips, updates, advice, and someone to connect with. It has also inspired people to pay it forward by helping someone else get a vaccine appointment.
"Being able to lend your hand to someone else makes your own weight feel a whole lot lighter whatever those conditions are so bottom line I think this group has helped me probably as much or more than anybody. It has become one of the most incredible examples of crowdsourcing that I've ever witnessed just people that are encouraged to find vaccines for themselves, for their loved ones, but then also to use that knowledge to help the next person down the line," said Dary.
"It makes me so excited when people post online saying because of this group I got a vaccine and that just makes me kind of tear up every single time," said Greene.
Now with more people qualifying for the vaccine, these groups will be even busier and this huge paying it forward effort will continue to grow.
"It's become just a wonderful view into humanity that I feel like we haven't seen in a while. It's a lot of people coming together to help other people and even once people have made their vaccination appointment they stay in the group to help somebody else," said Caldwell.
For those interested on joining the Facebook groups, the links are listed below:
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