By: Jenna Thomas
The Vaccine Queens have garnered media attention across Ohio as they help other Ohioans book appointments for their COVID-19 vaccine. Marla Zwinggi and Stacey Bene both started by helping friends and family navigate the complex booking systems of each individual provider when the vaccine rollout began. Once they became familiar and skilled at booking appointments, the duo offered their services to the broader community.
They just booked their 2,000th appointment.
“The Cauldron” sat down with Zwinggi and Bene to get some insider tips on how young people can successfully book appointments when they are hard to find and what other things they should consider as they get their vaccines.
Following the Vaccine Queen’s Facebook page can keep you up-to-date on when new appointments are posted at the mass vaccination clinics or pharmacies and when there are leftover vaccines that need to be used quickly.
There are also certain times of day that might yield better results. Bene detailed the best times to look for new appointments depending on what pharmacy you are booking through.
“Walmart posts their appointments at midnight. Rite Aid likes to post at midnight, and then again at 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. CVS likes to post them at 7:00 a.m. Giant Eagle is kind of all throughout the day, but they won’t post any new appointments outside of normal business hours,” Bene said.
There are “no waste lists” that distribute leftover vaccines if people do not show up to their appointments. Drug Mart and CVS have lists you can be added to by calling your local pharmacies.
“Get on your local lists, because those pharmacies know they have extras late at night and can’t wait for someone to drive an hour,” suggests Bene.
Still, young people are hesitant to get vaccinated because they are healthy and their chances of being severely affected by the virus are low. CSU student Jack Brancatelli shared these concerns.
“I was nervous about getting the vaccine as a young person, thinking I was taking it away from people who need it more. Then, someone pointed out to me that they’d only open it up to new groups if there was enough supply.”
If that is a concern for you, there are ways to consider equity when you are booking your appointment.
Zwinggi recommends young people stay flexible about where they receive their shot.
“Some people really need those appointments that are only five miles from their home. If younger people can be flexible and fill appointments that might be in Akron or somewhere else, that could help leave appointments for people who need to stay close to home.”
Bene added young people could also help by being flexible about what shot they receive.
“If people don’t have medical issues or circumstances that require you to get a certain vaccine, be open to whatever vaccine is open to you. A lot of people want the Johnson and Johnson vaccine so that it’s one and done, but those are really hard to find at local pharmacies.”
Young people can also consider leaving appointments in low-income areas for the residents of those neighborhoods. Nonprofit clinics that serve minority and low-income communities like the Centers for Families and Children and Neighborhood Family Practice might also be avoided in favor of mass vaccination clinics and other pharmacies.
Regardless, both Zwinggi and Bene implore young people to not be hesitant or wait.
“Supply is not the issue right now. We are not having as much difficulty matching people to shots, so if you are eligible please get vaccinated. That’s how we will get out of this,” says Bene.
“Last year it was ‘Do your part; stay home,’ but now we need everyone who wants a vaccine to get one,” says Zwinggi.