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Vaccine hunters step in to help those getting lost in tech-savvy competition for doses

Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Health & Fitness

ST. LOUIS – Dr. Elizabeth Bergamini works nights as a pediatrician. During the day, she juggles caring for three children — ages 4 months, 2 and 5 — while booking vaccine appointments for others.

She estimates she’s helped about 500 people. She sits on the couch, while feeding or rocking her baby, with her laptop, her husband’s computer and phone.

“I spend a lot of time stalking websites and refreshing pages,” said Bergamini, 31, of Wildwood. “It’s a million different little links. If you are not a little bit tech-savvy, you can’t navigate these systems.”

Butch Hartmann of Richmond Heights was in that category. He saw a Feb. 17 story on the news about Mary Grobe, an area school teacher who was helping others find vaccine appointments. Hartmann, 78, called her school district and left her a message.

Hartmann was desperate to find a dose for his longtime girlfriend, Betty White, 74. With no computer or smartphone, he was having no luck with the health systems.

Grobe called him back, and four days later, Grobe had scored White an appointment at Walgreens in Ferguson. All White had to do was show up.

 

“She’s super cool on the computer, you know,” Hartmann said, “I call her the queen of the vaccine hunters.”

Grobe, 41, of St. Louis, is one of several “hunters” helping others navigate what has become the complicated world of finding COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Every pharmacy, local health department, hospital system, clinic or state mass vaccine event has a different way to register or book appointments. And one must be quick.

With appointments getting snapped up as soon as they open, those with the time and savvy to monitor websites have a leg up. Residents able to travel to rural areas, where it’s easier to get appointments, also have an advantage.

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