Angela Rozmyn has spent much of her adult life working for sustainable justice and equity.
That’s why the Eastside resident, who works in affordable housing, serves on the Kirkland Planning Commission and writes a financial blog for women, jumped at the chance to use her tech savvy to help her community find and make frustratingly elusive COVID-19 vaccine appointments through a new Facebook group called Find a COVID shot WA.
The group, just 12 days old and with more than 16,000 members and scores of carefully trained volunteers, tries to find open vaccine appointments for people with the highest risk factors: elderly people, people with chronic underlying medical conditions and Black, Indigenous and people of color.
The Facebook group, started by a pair of Seattle-area siblings, is not about pointing fingers or casting blame on local, state and federal officials charged with distributing the vaccine, though the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) acknowledged the vaccine rollout has caused consternation for those hoping to get their loved ones inoculated.
“We know the process for making an appointment can be difficult and frustrating, especially right now when vaccine supply is limited and there aren’t as enough appointments available for everyone who is eligible,” DOH spokesperson Kristen Maki wrote in an email. “We are working on improvements to make our systems easier for everyone to navigate. In the meantime, we’re glad to see so many people are helping each other figure out the process. We’re encouraging everyone to continue supporting one another, as they have done in countless ways throughout the pandemic.”
At the beginning of this week, Rozmyn had helped 75 people of color get their shots.
It’s been incredibly gratifying, she said, to impact equity directly by helping working-class people of color who cannot drop everything to get inoculated.
“Before I started, I had pretty much done the same sort of thing with my family and friends and grandma, who is 86,” said Rozmyn.
“She is pretty tech savvy but I know she would not have gotten her first shot already if I hadn’t set her up.”
Barbara Ouderkirk had been trying to get a vaccine appointment for weeks.
The Kent resident and her husband are both over 65 with underlying medical conditions, but the best she could do was a wait list.
On Friday last week, she was watching local TV news when she heard about a Facebook group started by siblings who had been brought up to try to fill needs with service where they saw them.
Within two minutes of posting her request, Ouderkirk had contact with one of the group’s volunteers. By Sunday afternoon, she and her husband had already gotten their first vaccines at Seattle Children’s hospital and had appointments for their second.
“I was amazed and ready to cry,” she said. “These people are real angels.”
In a post to the Facebook group, she wrote: “I want to thank everyone that runs this page for the help you gave my husband and I in getting our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. I made the appointments on Friday and we got our shots today. We are also going to be able to get our second doses at the same place. Thank you all so much once again for the help you gave us. May God bless you richly.”
There are ground rules for joining the group. Group administrators say no posting about politics or vaccine debates is allowed, and they won’t help with line jumping or “vaccine tourism” where people try to get in on vaccines in another community.
The posted locations and publicly available information is verified and checked constantly for accuracy.