Local “Vaccine Hunters” help people find appointments, advocate for equity


MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md (WDVM) — Teachers from schools across Montgomery County are leading the charge when it comes to helping people from vulnerable populations secure appointments.

Calling themselves the “Vaccine Hunters,” they’ve helped hundreds of older residents and those with limited access to the internet hunt down doses of the vaccine.

“Our first week, we got over 220 seniors booked. It was amazing to hear the stories. They tug on your heartstrings, every single person you’re able to reach,” said Courtney Mason, who teaches biology and horticulture at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

WDVM’s Randi Bass was able to sit down with a few of the hunters for a Zoom call. They told her they are working to simplify the sign-up process for everyone searching for a spot.

“The communication is ridiculous. The state is doing one thing; the county is doing another thing. Nothing is in the same place,” said Mason.

Their shareable document lists links to sign-up, when appointments become available, and what groups each site is vaccinating, all in one big spreadsheet.

“These are all of your options, so take advantage of them all. Don’t just register, and sit back, and wait. That’s not going to be, how it’s going to work,” Mason explained.

With more priority groups now eligible and more people learning the system, the hunters say they haven’t had as much success securing appointments in recent days.

“There was someone, just the other day, I tried to help them. I burst out crying because I felt so badly that I tried and failed for this elderly person. I’m probably their only hope at this point,” said Dina Ciccone, a chemistry and computer science teacher at Damascus High School.

With appointments becoming tougher to find, even for them, they have switched their focus to advocating for equity.

“The more we started researching, the more we realized just how disenfranchised people were in different communities,” said Kathleen Bartels, a Spanish teacher at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. “The Spanish translation [on the sign-up pages] are clearly done by an electronic translator. A lot of it doesn’t make sense, and a lot of it doesn’t use accessible language for your average, everyday reader.”

“We have to help the communities who are impacted the most. They need clinics close by. A lot of people we’ve spoken to are afraid to leave their house for ten minutes because of their health conditions,” said Mason.

You can find the Vaccine Hunters Facebook page here, and a link to their sign-up spreadsheet here.

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