Katherine Quirk and Russ Schwartz created a Facebook community for COVID-19 vaccine information.
By Sharon Aron Baron
Concerned about seniors navigating through the bureaucratic red tape of finding COVID-19 vaccination locations, a Parkland couple created a Facebook group to help them — and others in the community.
Called the South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info, it was created by MiraLago residents Katherine Quirk, a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse with Broward Health, and Russ Schwartz, principal at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School.
Katherine had just received her first vaccination at the end of December. Just days later, she and Russ were thinking about the difficulties the 65 and older population would be having navigating through the system when it was time for them.
“You have to be pretty computer savvy,” said Katherine.
They thought about their parents. If they needed the shot, there must be others too.
As moderators of the Facebook group, Katherine and Russ, who are engaged to be married, share timely news articles on which sites are open or accepting new appointments.
For instance, Russ said the location at the Hard Rock Stadium vaccinates 1,000 patients a day.
“There are phone numbers that are put out that people are getting through on. One particular number has had a lot of success.”
Besides being a source of invaluable information, the Facebook group also serves as a place to vent frustration, which includes long wait times on phone calls, lack of information from the Florida Department of Health, and vaccines’ shortfalls.
One member wrote she had called one location over 500 times with no answer. “Don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
Another member wrote, “Pathetic! I give up trying to get through to anyone, anywhere!!!”
More often, it’s members thanking the community for assisting them.
“Just had luck getting an appointment for my parents at Hard Rock Stadium. Try calling now. Good luck!”
“Thank you!!!! I was able to get appointments for my parents based on this group’s info, and hopefully, as more doses come out and the general population can get it, we can use this group to help book for more people!!!!”
The 5,900 members are from all over South Florida, including Palm Beach County and cities including Boca Raton, Parkland, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.
Russ said word has gotten to people who live in the northeast who have parents living in South Florida.
“They’re using information from the page to get their parent’s appointments. Now they’re calling and getting [them] appointments.”
The group is public, and there aren’t too many rules; however, there are two important ones — the information posted about vaccinations has to be verified, and no political discussions are allowed.
Katherine says to those frustrated with the vaccine rollout, stay positive; it’s going to get easier.
“The amount of people who want to get vaccinated right now is overwhelming the system, but collectively we will get through this.”
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