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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

Bergamini has gone beyond hunting down available doses; she has even driven others to appointments hours away in places like Potosi, Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff.

At a recent mass vaccination event in Scotland County, health department administrator Sarah Krouse-Steele estimated that about half of the attendees came from outside the county. Some came from neighboring Knox, Schuyler and Clark counties, she said, but a good number also drove from St. Louis — about 200 miles away.

The department still had to redistribute about 2,000 of their 2,500 doses to another event. “Between us and the hospital, we had already vaccinated quite a few people in this county,” Krouse-Steele said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has also said the state is transitioning to hosting more mass vaccination events in urban areas. The Missouri National Guard had been coordinating weekly 2,000-dose events in each of the state’s nine Highway Patrol regions. During a briefing on Thursday, Parson said the state’s mass vaccination teams will triple in the St. Louis area by April 1, and double in the Kansas City area.

The state will also, starting the week of March 29, shift vaccine allocations from a system based on each region’s population to one based on each region’s number of unvaccinated, eligible individuals.

Over the past week, Bergamini and others say more appointments have opened in the St. Louis area. More pharmacies are offering doses, and people are beginning to receive emails and calls from local health departments and hospitals.

Hartmann said White got her first call back from SSM Health on Wednesday, about two weeks after Grobe helped her get an appointment at Walgreens.

 

The vaccine hunters say their only reward is hearing how grateful people are to finally be able to see their grandkids or venture out of their homes.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing how much joy and relief people get by having that appointment,” Bergamini said. “People have called me crying, they are so happy.”

Grobe is driven by her own experience with COVID-19. She was infected in November and became extremely ill. She missed six weeks of work and still suffers breathing issues. She doesn’t want anyone else to go through that. She also remembers what it felt like getting vaccinated.

“When I got that first shot,” she said, “it felt like winning the lottery.”

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(Annika Merrilees of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.)

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