MINNEAPOLIS — Long ago, or what feels like long ago, around February 2021, a woman founded Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters. While she thought she'd be done with it by now, the group is now focusing on finding COVID-19 tests for people who need them.
"My page has also organically morphed from extra doses to just helping people navigate the system," founder Maura Caldwell told Breaking The News.
Nearly a year later and a jump in 56,000 members, the Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters is a multi-resource group.
"We're still called the 'Vaccine Hunters,' although lately we've been more test hunters than vaccine hunters," Kirsten Dougherty said with a laugh.
Dougherty, along with four others, is an administrator of the page.
Recently, the page has been popping with questions like, 'Why hasn't my saliva test arrived at the lab?,' 'Is it okay for a COVID test to sit in the cold?,' 'Has anyone used this type of rapid test before?'
"Some of the questions are, 'When should I test after an exposure?' 'How can I find a test in the community?'" Dougherty said. "We're frequently asked about proper use and how to find at home antigen tests as well."
Finding a test may be one of the hottest topics right now. But with a group that's 57,000 members strong, Dougherty says crowdsourcing has been a powerful tool.
"We are relying on a few different things, we use a website called NowInStock.Net, you can set it for like a PlayStation - but we have them set for different brands of antigen tests at home," she explained. "And with our really good members, we do well with crowdsourced information as well."
They're also fielding questions that medical professionals like Dougherty can answer.
"People also come to us now for just some good evidence based information because everything keeps changing as well," she said.
What started as a group of good hearted folks trying to score vaccines for the most vulnerable, has now pivoted.
"We super optimistically and maybe naively thought last year early on we'd be out of a job by now," Dougherty said. "So I would say that it switched, initially we were staying up 'til midnight, until Walmart released its appointments, booking appointments for seniors — doing that every night. And now it has transitioned to trying to answer questions when we're able. We have a really tight-knit team of five people who work together closely."
In terms of how long she thinks the group will be around?
"We'll be here until we're not needed anymore," she said. "I don't think there are any signs of quitting; like I said, last year we thought we'd be out of a job. Like everyone's gonna get vaccinated and this is gonna be better, and yet, here we are, 2022."
The Vaccine Hunters also have an official website where people can find all information related to vaccines, boosters, quarantining and testing for folks who do not use Facebook.
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