MILWAUKEE - Figuring out where, how, when to get the COVID-19 vaccine -- and deciding which one to choose -- can be a hurdle, even for those who are tech-savvy.
Thousands of people in Wisconsin, many complete strangers, are harnessing the power of social media to connect others with vaccines and pay it forward.
Bob Orech started a Facebook group in late February to help connect the elderly and teachers with COVID-19 vaccines -- helping complete strangers navigate the myriad of options and allowing others to post vaccine leads.
"I didn’t expect this, but at the same time, it’s been so positive. The amount of stories I’ve gotten, thank yous, it’s made it all worth it," said Orech.
Milwaukee & Wisconsin Area Vaccine Hunters and Angels
The group -- Milwaukee & Wisconsin Area Vaccine Hunters and Angels -- has ballooned to more than 9,400 members with hundreds of posts per day.
"I think we can all agree the last several years, social media’s been used against us," Orech said. "Now we’re kind using social media, kind of the way it was intended; beyond just seeing pictures of people’s puppies and people’s food, we’re using this to crowdsource information to help people get vaccinated."
"For me, they actually got my daughter vaccinated. That’s the way it worked. And I’ve since used their information to help a lot of other people because it feels good to get people vaccinated," said Anne Veit, who lives in the Madison area.
Veit was searching statewide earlier this month for where she could get the Pfizer vaccine for her at-risk, 16-year-old daughter -- near their Dane County home, perhaps in Green Bay or Milwaukee. Eventually, Veit was able to find a vaccination in Dane County.
"To see that and hear that all the time, I don’t care. I’ll sleep four hours a night the next month if I have to," Orech said.
Orech, who helps manage the group outside of his normal work hours, said it became too hard to keep track of how many people have been connected with vaccine, but estimates it numbers in the thousands.
"Hopefully we slow down, and get put out of business, because that’s our goal, obviously, is we don’t want to exist," said Orech.
Ultimately, that would mean: Mission accomplished.