Need help finding a COVID-19 vaccine?
Four-hundred people with time to spare are ready to look for you and book you an appointment.
The PA COVID Vaccine matchmaker is a facebook group founded by Dr. Christine Meyer where nearly 400 people have volunteered as 'finders' to link 'seekers' to vaccine.
"It's pretty much a group that operates 24/7," said Dr. Meyer who noted none of the 'finders' are getting paid from the site and all are volunteers.
"It's really just been a demonstration of the goodness of people to be honest with you. That's the only way," she said as she noted the site has helped nearly 2,000 people find a shot in just the past month. "Honestly, I would cry just talking about it. And, people do, people do. People literally cry."
TO GET HELP FINDING A VACCINE
The site is helping people find appointments and aiding those who need help with tips to get an appointment.
Vaccine seekers are asked to fill out a form that will become part of a database used by the 'finders' to locate vaccine appointments.
Due to overwhelming demand for help, finders are currently prioritizing people 75 and up to assist them with locating a vaccine.
Once finders connect a person to a vaccine and/or a person is able to find a vaccine on their own, seekers are asked to 'opt out' of the database.
Listen to vaccine finder Max Rotondo:
TIPS TO GET A VACCINE
In addition to helping people find an appointment, the facebook page provides timely posts on where vaccine appointments are available and tips to get one.
Read here for more information.
25-year-old Rotondo decided to volunteer to become a finder shortly after he became eligible for a vaccine.
"I'm only 25 and when I was at the vaccination site I saw a 77-year-old individual get turned away. And, they were crying. And, I was like this is not fair because in all honesty they probably need it more than I do," he said.
Since then, Rotondo has helped nearly 120 people get an appointment.
He gives the following tips:
- Most appointments are released late at night around 11:40 pm. Rotondo stays up until 1-2 am finding appointments for seekers.
- For appointments, he suggests: check Rite Aid after 11:40 pm, check CVS around 6 am (but be in the waiting room earlier), check Wegmans mid-day or Friday afternoons
- Rotondo suggests checking vaccination providers daily for appointments and ask for sign up lists. He noted supply is going up and it is slowly getting easier to access appointments.
"I feel like I'm almost saving lives in a sense because they are getting the vaccine. So, for me it's all worth it," he said.
HOW THE PAGE GOT STARTED
Dr. Meyer started the page following a February snowstorm which kept 15 of her office employees at home.
She told them, "while they were all working from home they would need to try to get vaccine appointments for people. That was how we were going to use our work from home time."
However, within two hours Dr. Meyer's email server crashed as 12-hundred emails flooded her office. She therefore created the PA CoVID Vaccine Match Maker. Dr. Meyer's said some of her employees are still involved in the page as finders. But, as the page has grown in popularity more finders have joined to help those in need.
"It's this outpouring of community help and support like complete strangers all ponying up," Dr. Meyer's said.
Dr. Meyer said this past month has been among the most rewarding in her career, noting that there was a time when doctors felt 'powerless' against the virus. But, now with the vaccine there is new hope to fight it and she wants to do everything she can to get the vaccine into more arms. She noted a vaccine for anyone is a victory for everyone.
"If Facebook had a parade, like there would be a Facebook parade every single time (someone got a vaccine). It's just so amazing," she said.
HEAR FROM SOMEONE WHO FOUND A VACCINE
62-year-old Sandy Hackman qualified for the vaccine, along with her 90-year-old mother. She spent a month searching for a COVID-19 vaccine before she signed up to get the help of a facebook 'finder.' Within days, she said her and her mother both had appointments at Rite Aid.
"I could not land us an appointment. So, on Facebook I heard about this group and I immediately went there. I filled out a form," she said.
Hackman said without the group, "I'd probably still be looking. I hope not. But, this was just kind of magical for me."