BOWIE, Md. — A Maryland-based Facebook group dedicated to finding volunteers to help seniors get vaccine appointments is building momentum.
The Maryland Vaccine Hunters Facebook page is up to 9000 members as of Monday afternoon.
The group has become an online clearinghouse for people desperate for the vaccine and volunteers who are trying to help.
Elliott Hazzard, a Geographic Information Systems manager, and his father, founded the group on Feb. 1.
"What we're doing in Maryland Vaccine Hunters is pairing young tech-savvy people with some of our senior citizens to try and secure appointments for them and we've had a tremendous outpouring of volunteers," Hazzard said.
"I have a post pinned to the top of the helping seniors topic within the group. If you want to volunteer, you can simply comment 'I'll volunteer' on that post. And that will let people know that you can be private messaged on Facebook and help schedule appointments for senior citizens."
Hazzard added the group's general discussion thread allows people in need of help to post comments, where frequently volunteers jump in to make a connection or offer help.
"It's very quick, many, many people are willing to help," Hazzard said.
One volunteer has posted a spreadsheet of all the sites she has used to search for appointments and provided 10 step instructions for how to improve your chances at securing one.
The member describes it as "like a video game."
Hazzard said he and his father were motivated to launch the group after hearing reports of vaccines going to waste because of appointment confusion.
He says one of the most challenging jobs of moderating the group is spotting and eliminating misinformation as well as the sharing of appointment links from county governments that are intended only for the original user.
"Sharing appointment links is a serious problem and a lot of people think they are making an appointment and only find out later that it won't work because the link wasn't for them," Hazzard said.