by Evan Joseph ‘23
Upon the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine, many elderly people in local communities have struggled to find appointments to get vaccinated. This includes the wife of an 88-year-old hospice patient who finally received the vaccine and now can be near her husband — thanks to the “Vaccine Hunters,” a group of MCPS teachers that includes four teachers from Sherwood. The members of the Vaccine Hunters have spent their limited spare time helping elderly people and minority populations tackle the difficult task of booking appointments for the vaccine when availability has been limited in Maryland.
The group of teachers originally connected through the “Kayak Mamas” group, and all were fortunate enough to already receive the vaccination. They noticed how difficult it was to get the vaccination for themselves and decided they should help others with the process of setting up appointments. The Vaccine Hunters from Sherwood are business education teacher Maisie Lynch, Spanish teachers Maria Peterson and Tanya Aguilar, and social studies teacher Becky Taylor. The other members of the group are Dina Ciccone from Damascus, Kathleen Bartels from Whtiman, Courtney Mason from Blair, and Tania Perez-Fuentes from Edison.
The Vaccine Hunters spend several hours of the day working to find appointments to get the vaccine. “All 8 of us are on our computers all day. We have found out that appointments open at night, after 8 p.m.,” explained Peterson. “At that time we all jump in and start registering as many people that we can from our list of senior requests. In four days we were able to secure over 200 appointments. We work after school and late at night, as late as 1:00 a.m.”
Many issues are slowing down the rollout of the vaccine in minority communities around the nation, according to Peterson. “Communication in Spanish and fear. Lack of education in the community. Many Latinos are scared to give their info in fear of immigration roundups. They are not coming near these centers because nobody has assured them that no immigration status will be asked.”
Although the Vaccine Hunters have had many successes, there are still some big holes to fill for the vaccination rollout to be more efficient. “We wish government officials listened to what the Vaccine Hunters have to say,” said Peterson. “We have the data of what works and doesn’t work. Stop opening appointments to other groups until there is more inventory and more seniors have been vaccinated.” Peterson says that the vaccines should roll out by zip codes based on the areas most affected by Covid-19 infections. She also believes that locations providing the vaccine should consider having “senior days” for only the elderly.
The Vaccine Hunters have been interviewed by more than 10 local media outlets, and they hope that the positive response to their efforts will catch the attention of government officials or others who can make improvements to the vaccine rollout in Montgomery County and surrounding areas. “Someone knows someone who knows someone,” said Peterson. “You never know who will read this article and perhaps be able to help us!”