Part of what makes IMO, well, IMO is our employees. This year, we’ve highlighted some of the unique and talented individuals we work with through our In My Opinion series and by talking about our CEO’s One Word initiative. Today we’re thrilled to chat with Jordan Leibovitz about her work to help people access COVID-19 vaccines through Vaccine Buddies.
Why did you become a “vaccine buddy”?
JL: It all started in late January when my parents – who are over 65 – became eligible for the vaccine. It took me over three weeks of scouring the internet around-the-clock to finally secure two “coveted” appointment slots at a Walgreens. Even still, it was over 50 miles from home! Since I have a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and have worked in the health IT industry for over four years, I figured that I would quickly be able to figure out the sign-up process. I can assure you though, this was no easy feat. Given that someone with my background was struggling, I couldn’t fathom the impact and immense frustration seniors or those that don’t have access to the needed technology were facing.
Coincidentally, I happened to come across an article around the same time about a senior task force being organized in my hometown that was helping secure appointments for the elderly community. From that point, I haven’t looked back since. To date, 50 volunteers have helped over 2500+ individuals get vaccinated!
What has the process been like?
JL: As soon as the vaccines became available to eligible individuals, the US government mentioned that the rollout was going to be both messy and unfair. In the beginning, when the states began opening up appointment slots, it was still hard to find one. States would only get partial amounts of the dose counts they were promised, which would leave people who showed up and were eligible both frustrated and worried. But as time has gone on, securing an appointment has become easier and easier. At Vaccine Buddies, we have relationships with local and state health departments and pop-up clinics. This means that even though you may have to wait in line a little bit for your vaccine, we’re usually able to ensure that if you have an appointment time, you can get a shot.
How do you stay inspired?
JL: This has been a very long year for everyone – myself included. In my eyes, this vaccine means I can possibly travel safely again; go see live music; drink beer at a baseball game; or try a new restaurant. But in a senior’s eyes this vaccine means so much more – they can hug their grandchildren again or leave their house without worrying this virus is going to kill them. This vaccine gives them a glimmer of hope that opens their world to the possibility that they can have their lives back soon.
My grandma lives in an assisted living facility and hasn’t been able to leave in over a year; and like hundreds and thousands of other children and grandchildren, I isolated myself from my parents after a potential exposure to the virus. I’ve directly felt the reality of what isolation from more senior members of the population means. So, supporting seniors and their families like this – that’s what keeps me going.
What are some tips for people looking to secure appointments?
- Persistence is key – there is a vaccine out there for everyone, you just have to look in the right places
- Make sure both your computer and smartphone have all of your information filled out in auto-fill – this way when you find an appointment, you can jump on it fast!
- Be on the lookout for community groups like Chicago Vaccine Hunters – this is a great way to get notified when pharmacies do appointment dumps or leftover vaccines are available
- Have http://vaxxmax.com/ and https://vaccinefinder.org/ bookmarked – these sites indicate what zip codes have vaccines available
- Finally, be flexible and don’t be afraid to look at a location further outside your immediate scope – the extra 10 miles is worth it!