COVID-19: Vaccine Hunters Canada volunteers working to eliminate booking appointment barriers

During the day Joshua Kalpin works as a software engineer, but by night he is hunting online – hunting for COVID-19 vaccine appointments on behalf of Vaccine Hunters Canada.

“This is something that we’ve done in our spare time to help people,” Kalpin said.

“For those that don’t have the time to track down appointments, [understand] which catchment area they belong to, and all these different things, it’s really challenging. We are kind of trying to bridge that gap.”

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Part of the confusion around booking vaccine appointments stems from the reality that there are so many ways it can be done. Eligible groups can navigate the provincial online booking systems, go through pharmacies, or try their hand at pop-up clinics if their residence falls within certain postal codes.

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On top of this, while the Ontario government released a list of hot spot postal codes officials say should be eligible for vaccinations, clinics are not necessarily prepared to book everyone who falls within those regions given the supply.

Kalpin is one of several moderators with Vaccine Hunters Canada. The volunteers work across the country sharing information and links through their Twitter and Discord accounts. If they get a tip about a clinic opening up, or age groups becoming eligible, they send out the information to their followers right away.

“We know how time-sensitive things can be so we wanted to ensure we got this information out as quickly as possible to as many people as possible,” Kalpin said.

Steven Scott is immunocompromised and told Global News he was having a hard time booking an appointment.

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After posting about his experience on Twitter, Vaccine Hunters Canada found him a spot within hours and sent him a message.

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“It made me super happy,” Scott said.

“Especially with the frustration that of that I had no idea or what hospitals or places were accommodating people like myself.”

Misha Khorramshahi told Global News she set an alert for the group’s Twitter account. At 11 p.m. on a Sunday, she said she learned some appointments had opened up for the next day in her community.

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“I was able to book my uncle, my dad, my aunt, and my other uncle back to back,” Khorramshahi said.

“So it was a really nice family reunion for them.”

The volunteer group has experienced some great success and their following is growing. Within the past week, they have accumulated more than 20,000 new Twitter followers.

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Kalpin said the group is committed to the work and won’t give up until getting a vaccine is a straightforward process and everyone has access.

“For every positive story of someone getting vaccinated, there’s a heart-breaking story of someone we can’t help,” Kalpin said.

“Until it’s to the point where getting a vaccine isn’t a race against time to book an appointment then we will be done.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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