Fast-growing social media group is helping Marylanders to get vaccine appointments
MARYLAND – Despite the fact that vaccines have been available for about two months, actually getting one has been difficult because of shortages. A Mount Airy resident has started a social media group to help people find them. “During a pandemic when there’s a severe shortage of vaccine, every dose should go into somebody’s arm instead of into the trash,” said Maryland Vaccine Hunters founder Elliot Hazzard.
Hazzard tells 47ABC he got inspiration from another Facebook group based out of New Orleans. He says NOLA Vaccine Hunters helps connect people with vaccines that are at risk of expiring soon. In just a few short weeks, the Maryland Vaccine Hunters Facebook group has garnered about 40,000 members. Hazzard says they’ve helped get COVID-19 vaccines to countless Marylanders. “When you have that many people posting all the time in the discussion feed it makes it very easy to figure out which locations have appointments, and when they can be scheduled,” said Hazzard.
Members of the group are sharing information about vaccine appointment availability. This all happening while moderators are even helping some to set up appointments. “I think it can be very helpful if somebody has gotten an appointment and they know a good time to try and set one up, or get on the website and set one up,” said Jennifer Johnson with the Wicomico County Health Department.
Travis Brown with the Worcester County Health Department tells 47ABC the group is a great example of how people can use social media as a tool an extremely difficult time. “If you’re getting information from a private Facebook group but it’s well-sourced and you can trace it back to one of those established, audited transparent agencies like the CDC or like us at the health department, then that’s great,” said Brown.
Both Brown and Johnson say they recommend not sharing personal information with others in order to set up a vaccine appointment. But Hazzard says the group has that covered. In the group’s rules, people are discouraged from sharing social security and drivers license numbers. He says only moderators can help folks to get appointments set up through private messages. “I have an all star team of moderators who are constantly looking at our content and the way it’s laid out, and are always thinking about ways the site can be improved,” said Hazzard.
Johnson says even with this resources, people should still continue to use information from health officials. She asks people to remain patient as they work to get vaccines given out. “I know it’s frustrating to people who are ready to get the vaccine. I know people are sick of us saying ‘Please be patient.’ The hard thing is there’s more a demand than there is supply right now,” said Johnson.
Hazzard also says he expects to see the group grow even more as vaccination rollout continues. He says he and his team of moderators are standing by to help any Marylanders who need it. “I expected the group to be popular. I didn’t expect it to explode quite as much as it has. But it’s really, really satisfying to know that so many people have discovered the group,” said Hazzard.
Hazzard tells 47ABC it’s the complete package – all run by volunteers. Numerous group members have posted, expressing their gratitude and relief for being able to use Maryland Vaccine Hunters as a resource. “It’s just been tremendous. I’m so excited and it’s so gratifying to know that I’ve helped so many of my fellow Marylanders,” said Hazzard.