CHICAGO – In search of a COVID-19 vaccine for her dad, Amber Dow was hitting one dead end after another.
Retail pharmacy websites declared “appointments unavailable.” Slots at local medical centers kept disappearing before she could type in any information.
Then she received a private Facebook message from a stranger: Go to the Jewel-Osco website right now. Enter your ZIP code. It’s in Palatine.
She immediately followed the instructions and snagged one of the grocery store’s last few open spots that day. Her father, 80-year-old Duane Dow, got his first shot on Wednesday.
The tip came from the Facebook site Chicago Vaccine Hunters, a group of more than 10,000 members who collect and share information on where to get vaccinated in real time, as new locations and time slots emerge.
“I was stunned,” said Amber Dow, 44, of the West Lakeview neighborhood. “I was encouraged by the display of common humanity and compassion and desire to be of service, without any expectation of anything in return. It was just purely to give.”
With COVID-19 vaccine in short supply, more locals are turning to social media for help as they scour the internet for available immunizations.
On Reddit, hundreds of posts offer tips and instructions for signing up for the shot in the Chicago area, from step-by-step guides for enrolling at different pharmacies to clues on best times to check various websites. Another Facebook group, Midwest Vaccine Hunters, has more than 1,700 members from across the region.
Similar sites are sprouting up in Minneapolis, Baltimore, Colorado and other parts of the country. The website www.vaccinehunter.org also offers advice from across the nation.
As for Chicago Vaccine Hunters, the Facebook page began earlier this month with general tips and advice, but evolved into individuals helping one another directly, in many cases even booking appointments for those who can’t do so on their own.