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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

Grobe said she’s helped about 600 people get appointments, mostly at pharmacies and clinics outside of urban areas.

“A lot is outside of St. Louis,” she said. “There’s more demand in St. Louis than we have appointments for people. I have people going to Farmington, Desloge, you are talking an hour or more away, because they want their vaccine.”

A recent report from Deloitte Consulting, a firm hired by the state of Missouri, found that during the last week of February, residents of the more populous areas of St. Louis, St. Charles and Jackson counties were the most mobile in seeking vaccines. The report also showed that the largest vaccination gaps — the number of eligible residents who have not gotten a dose — have remained in the urban areas for the past month.

Competition is fierce. Grobe knows the times when pharmacies post their next round of open appointments. She monitors social media accounts of locations, which often share when they’ve received shipments and plan to open appointment times.

Armed with her phone, she checks the sites when she wakes up, during breaks each day and at night. She maintains a list of about 30 people to text, call or book an appointment for when she spots an opening.

“And they know if I message them,” she said, “they better do it now.”

 

Grobe also has another list of teachers who become eligible for vaccines on Monday along with other essential workers like grocers and bus drivers — a total of 550,000 residents across the state.

But Grobe said she is still helping health care workers, who were among the first eligible, to find doses. Mostly, she helps those over age 65 with qualifying high-risk health conditions.

She has friends keeping an eye out as well. “We message each other when we see openings,” Grobe said. “It’s a lot of networking.”

Barry Brimer, 46, of west St. Louis County, says he can’t help people like a doctor or a teacher can, but he works in IT and is a computer wizard.

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