DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — The largest vaccination campaign in American history is not without its complications and shortfalls. Not every provider has been allotted the vaccine and those that have, aren’t working with an endless supply. That’s where grassroots groups and efforts to locate them are coming in.
“At first it was just a matter of four or five appointments,” said one vaccine hunter in Dallas. “Now we’re very well into hundreds of appointments. So yes, it does get addicting because I’m like, ‘Yes I got one! I got one more person!’”
For Payal Patel, the vaccine hunt started in December. What began as an effort to get her parents and eligible family members protected led her to a Facebook group.
Every day, members post questions, comments, and share where they’ve scored a vaccine. Jon Battle helps run the site. In two weeks, it’s gone from hundreds of members to 13,000.
“Well I sort of know they’re coming here because there’s a lack of information about the whole thing,” he said. “Where to go, what to do, what’s it like, I mean a thousand questions.”
Patel started sharing reliable information about where she was seeing appointment availability, and soon people started coming to her for answers.
“Once I helped one person, they would go to their family members and they would spread the word saying she helped me, she can help you too,” she said.
In fact, it was because of one of Patel’s posts that Jon and his wife got vaccinated themselves over the weekend. The full-time mother of two has now taken this on as her daily side gig — a passion project.
And it’s all done from her phone and her home office where she keeps a spreadsheet of eligible names throughout the week and safeguards their personal information and tracking when providers announce available doses.
“And know that certain ones will go live on a certain day, and I’m ready. I have all the names from the weekend and we’re ready Monday morning usually,” she said.
And she’s not the only one on the hunt. In Nevada, Stuart Timpa is a dealer at a Las Vegas casino. He’s 61, but considered an essential hospitality worker. However, in terms of when he’ll get the vaccine, it’s been crickets.
“I’ve been exposed to thousands of people, and I’ve been lucky enough not to have contracted the virus,” said Timpa. “But, you know, I don’t want to push my luck.”
All of this as many Americans are becoming desperate for COVID-19 protection — with some even cutting the line.
Some federal and state leaders are addressing the importance of waiting your turn.
“We’re seeing rumors and substantiated examples where people are getting access to the vaccine who are not yet eligible. It is not fair and that must stop,” said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Patel says she’s trying to land appointments only for those eligible in phases 1A and 1B. She has no background in healthcare and the only payment she’s getting comes in the form of thank you flowers and personal letters that now fill her kitchen island.
“I haven’t done anything special except click on a link, put in a little bit of information, and pray to God that I get it,” she said.