By Ella Sherman
When the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, Noah Fine noticed appointments were hard to find for busy essential workers and the elderly, and he decided to do something about it.
The sophomore mathematics and computer science major contacted eligible individuals who also needed appointments in February, from his fatherâs patients to his sisterâs school teachers.
âI mostly did help people who had a medical need, were older or had lots of exposure,â he said.
At the time, before pre-registration for mass vaccination sites became available in mid-March, those who were eligible for the vaccine had to find limited appointments for various clinics and pharmacies on their own.
Fine was successful in getting about 40 people vaccinated, and believes equity was missing from Gov. Larry Hoganâs vaccination plan because âit requires a decent amount of time and technical knowledge to become familiar with these [appointment] systems.â
However, sophomore mathematics major Jordan Herling felt like the process was accessible to him when he was able to sign up in early March through his employer.
âMaybe a day or two after my first shot I was emailed to select a time for my second shot,â he said.
Since Maryland expanded eligibility groups, Fine said he still observed inequity âranging from incredibly lax qualifications in terms of who is prioritized to private companies having no incentive to actually give precedence to the vulnerable.â
Greenbelt Mayor Colin A. Byrd criticized Hoganâs pandemic response, calling rollout highly inequitable at the opening of a mass vaccination site earlier this month. Hogan said he disagreed with Byrdâs statement.
Freshman kinesiology major Deena Karger first noticed inequity in appointment distribution when she found out she was eligible for the vaccine.
âOne of the driving factors to help others was the backlash I received for getting a vaccine appointment early on as a healthy 19-year-old,â she said.
Even at her own appointment, she said she observed âolder folks there looking for ways to sign up for the vaccine and complaining about how difficult it was to sign up for appointments.â Karger then decided to spring into action to help others schedule their vaccinations.
Karger became involved in sites such as the Maryland Vaccine Hunters Facebook group.
âI had many people reach out to me asking for help. I estimate that I signed up about eight people for their actual appointment and helped others find appointments.â
However, Karger found technology to be a barrier when it came to scheduling.
âOne of the most complex parts was that you really just had to spend hours refreshing the page and then fill out your information extremely fast to secure the spot,â she said.
Although Karger acknowledged that Marylandâs pre-registration system has made appointments more reachable, she expressed concern that “older folks and people with less acess to the internet” may still have trouble accessing appointments.
Karger is still on the hunt for vaccine appointments and mentioned that âanyone who still needs help … can message me through Facebook.â