Difference Makers: Facebook group helps New Yorkers find available COVID-19 vaccine appointments

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By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Navigating the system trying to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been difficult for many people, but there are some out there who are spending a lot of time trying to help.

WCBS 880's Mike Sugerman recently spoke with people lined up outside the George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn for their shot. They said they didn't mind waiting in the cold to get their vaccine because just getting the appointment was the hard part.

“I’ve been trying every day since the first of February," one woman said.

“Two weeks, kept trying every day," one man said.

“For a while it was virtually impossible," another woman said.

It was like that for Tony Ko, too. He spent weeks trying to schedule an appointment for his wife, who is an essential worker.

“I couldn't get anywhere," he said.

Then he came across a Facebook group put together by colleagues at Queens College called, Helping NYC Get Vaccinated.

“It’s been very complicated. They were making it up as they go," said Rebekah Hanousek-Monge, one of the co-founders of the group.

She started trying to get appointments for friends, especially older ones, who are not so internet savvy.

“People were, in essence, freaking out, coming to us, asking us how to navigate and walk them through this process," she said.

Hanousek-Monge recruited some friends to help in the effort and now there are hundreds scouring the internet for vaccine appointments. Some spend hours a day going on sites and when they find availabilities, they post them to the Facebook group.

Chelsea Lavington, who started the group along with Hanousek-Monge, has been amazed at its success.

“New Yorkers, I think we sometimes we get a bad reputation, and the help that people have been offering it's really been heartwarming," Lavington said.

After visiting the Facebook group, Ko was finally about to find an appointment for his wife after weeks of frustration.

And now he is among the community working to find appointments for others.

In addition to the Facebook group there are other sites, including TurboVax and NYC Vaccine List, run by volunteers who have made it their mission to help New Yorkers get vaccinated.

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