CHICAGO (WGN) – The COVID-19 vaccine is still in short supply and trying to get a shot can lead to a short temper, but some frustrated vaccine-seekers are finding help in online forums.
Some Illinoisans are turning to Facebook after saying they found little help from public health officials and pharmacies.
Deanna Pear was spending so much times refreshing web pages that it reminded her for the hunt for hot concert tickets.
“It’s like back in the day, when I want to see a concert, and you have to call them, or go somewhere and line up, or if you’re trying to do it on the and you just wait and wait and wait – and it’s loading for an hour and it felt like such slim chances of getting anything,” Pear said.
The Bucktown mother had been trying for weeks to get a vaccination appointment for her 73-year-old mother Barbara.
“She has a smart phone, but she doesn’t really know how to use it. She’s very wary of anything online, so I usually do that stuff for her.” said Pear.
The Bucktown was stumped at every term, so a neighbor suggested that she check out a Facebook group called “Chicago Vaccine Hunters.”
It’s a group where tech-savvy volunteers, who have found ways to get appoints, offer help to strangers. So far, the group has helped at least 225 people get appointments.
One of the volunteers is 14-year-old Benjamin Kagan, who is a freshman at Francis Parker.
“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 said.
He developed his own spreadsheet to speed the process and has personally helped 115 people get the vaccine.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help people like this so I’ve personally helped 115 people,” Kagan added. “I just kept trying we had four computers open and we were trying on all of them and I just got lucky.
Chicago Vaccine Hunters has useful tools in what can seem like a mad scramble to get a vaccine appointment – increasingly people are turning to similar forums on Reddit, other Facebook groups and online tip sites.
For Deanna Spear, it was a tip from Chicago Vaccine Hunters that lead to a breakthrough Monday morning.
“People had said, ‘try calling Loyola,” Spear said.
Her mother called within an hour and had an appointment set for March.
If you use one of the groups, experts said not to give out your social security number online and you should ignore any unsolicited vaccine offers.