New Jersey

‘Strangers Helping Strangers': Facebook Group Helps Those Searching for Elusive COVID Vaccine

Response to the group that helps total strangers locate vaccines or make an appointment has been robust — nearly 50,000 members already, and counting

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The challenges of getting a COVID vaccine, or even just snagging an appointment, have been well-documented. But two sisters who live on opposite sides of the Hudson River decided to do something about it in order to help.

They made a Facebook group called "New Jersey Covid Vaccine Info" a month ago, which according to one of the organizers, Brandi Prell, serves to "give people a place to look and hopefully make the appointment process go faster and a little bit easier."

Her sister, Brittany, explained how their simple — yet incredibly helpful — group forum works.

"So with the Meadowlands [vaccination site], at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, they release a bunch of appointments, someone will write, 'Meadowlands open now.'" she said. Despite only naming New Jersey, members will also list when new appointments go online in New York as well.

Response to the group has been robust — nearly 50,000 members and counting in just over a month.

"Every day now, it's been multiplying. It's crazy, it definitely shows that there's such a demand for it," Brittany Prell said.

Barbara Deradorian is one of those members. The Saddle Brook resident said it helped her and her mother.

"My mom is 92 so I was very concerned about her," Deradorian said, "I also suffer a couple of preexisting conditions, so I need the vaccine."

She was able to find appointments based on info shared among group members. Now she's paying it forward, helping book appointments for other members, no matter what hour.

"I've been up since 1 for Rite Aid, and then this morning for CVS. You get not sleep," Deradorian said.

If a member is willing to help book an appointment, they're warned to only share certain information. Deradorian said the reward is worth the effort.

"They're really grateful. I always follow up with and ask them to let me know how the vaccine went. It's very gratifying," she said.

The sisters who started the group said it's been refreshing to see just how helpful people are willing to be to complete strangers amid a challenging time.

"During such a dark time this year, people stuck in their houses, it's been a hard time. And you go on this page and you see strangers helping strangers and people are really, really happy to reach out and help others," said Brittany Prell. "It's been amazing to see."

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