CHICAGO (CBS) — Scoring a coronavirus vaccine appointment can feel a lot like a competition – as people with internet access and tech savvy can edge out others.
CBS 2’s Marissa Parra on Sunday explained the frustration, and what a high schooler is doing to help.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: A Sunny Start
“Every morning I sit in front of my computer, then I do it again at night before I go to bed, and then one or two times during the day,” said Delmarie Cobb, a renowned media and political consultant who lives in Bronzeville.
Cobb knows her way around Chicago. But like thousands of Chicagoans, she can’t find her way around getting a vaccine appointment online.
The message she keeps receiving is, “We don’t have any available appointments coming up within your area.”
Cobb has signed up for Walgreens, Walmart, Cook County, and the City of Chicago – and every time, she’s been beaten to the punch by people with faster internet, more tech-savvy hands, or just more time.
“I read about people coming from other places – North Shore into the city of Chicago, probably to neighborhoods they’ve never been in a day in their lives – and they’re here getting shots,” Cobb said. “It’s really disheartening.”
After abysmal numbers showing people of color, who had the highest death rates from COVID-19, showing the lowest numbers of getting the vaccine, the city ramped up the Protect Chicago Plus program – partnering with health centers like Esperanza to open vaccination sites in ZIP codes hit hardest by the virus – but there are still seniors of color still falling through the cracks.
“It’s a race thing, it’s an age thing, it’s a socioeconomic thing – it’s a little everything,” Cobb said. “The onus shouldn’t be on the people who need the vaccine.”
The list of people in line to get the vaccine doesn’t include high schooler Benjamin Kagan. At just 14 years old, he is too young to sign up under the current age limits – so he is helping others sign up instead.
“I’m technologically savvy as well and it’s just really difficult,” said Kagan, founder of Chicago Vaccine Angels. “Appointments are so scarce. If you’re not on the ball and getting them as soon as they are released, they’re gone.”READ MORE: Hegewisch Woman Furious After Someone Pepper-Sprayed Her Dogs Through The Fence
After the Chicago Vaccine Hunters Facebook group took off, Kagan started Chicago Vaccine Angels as a separate group. Along with 100 others, he spends free time doing the hunting for those who can’t.
“We had a lot of seniors in the main Facebook group that were struggling to get vaccines because there were so many different systems and different times,” Kagan said. ‘It’s incredibly complicated to navigate even for myself.”
So far, they’ve connected over 200 Chicagoans – most of them seniors – with appointments.
“I personally have helped connect 115 people with their vaccines personally,” Kagan said.
By the way – he did all of that during his week off from school.
It’s an effort that’s potentially lifesaving for hundreds. But Cobb is still hopeful that more can be done by the distributors themselves to do more vaccine outreach to people who don’t have a phone, an email, or even a way to get around.
“In most African-American communities and seniors, we often talk about food deserts and health deserts, because people are on public transportation and they have a hard time getting where they need to go,” Cobb said.
Cobb called for more and continued outreach at places like local churches – where she noted that many South Siders gather – and more door-knocking to reach those who don’t have a large online presence.
If you’re looking for help getting a vaccine, send an email to VaccineHunter@gmail.com with your name and location. If you’re looking to give help and volunteer, send an email to VaccineHunter@gmail.com and write “Volunteer” in the subject line.
Here are some links to help you make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine: (We have to caution you, it may be difficult to find an available shot in the near future and near your home, but we did want to share all these links in one place to perhaps make it easier for you.)MORE NEWS: Chauncey Spencer II Takes To The Road With Stories Of African Americans In Flight, Including A Stop In Chicago