FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida couple is going on a social media mission to help local seniors who are struggling to secure appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
Seniors 65 and older are receiving their doses on a daily basis, making them excited about the future.
7News cameras captured dozens of patients standing in line to receive their second dose at Belmont Village in Fort Lauderdale, Friday.
“It will make a profound difference in my life if I’m able to do normal things,” said patient Arjun Bhattacharya.
But this isn’t the reality for many, like Arlene Lieberman, who are unable to make an appointment.
“It’s getting to be very stressful for me. A little depression coming on, a little fear,” she said.
This frustration is what prompted Katherine Quirk and her fiancé, Russell Schwartz, to start South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info, a Facebook page aimed at helping these seniors.
“I think we can all relate to having a loved one that we want to get vaccinated,” said Quirk.
Quirk is a pediatric oncology nurse at Broward Health Medical Center, and since she works in a hospital and is close to the situation, she knew these seniors needed help.
“It’s a challenge to get appointments. We have the state-run sites, we have the county-run sites,” she said.
Quirk and Schwartz, a principal at Nova Blanche Foreman Elementary School, started posting the latest vaccine information on Facebook. Then they picked up the phone and began calling, helping the seniors make appointments.
“During the day, we are at our jobs and working hard doing what we do. We’re a nurse and a school principal,” said Quirk. “When we get home, though, at night, we say hi to our kids, we give them some love, we get them some dinner, and we get back to work, and we work until like 11:30, 12 o’clock at night.”
The couple stay on the phone until late at night and even wake up early to secure appointments.
People started noticing their efforts, so they began to help, sharing information and joining the Facebook group.
“We share as much as we can on that page,” said Quirk. “If we find out that there’s a new site opening, we make sure to get that shared on the page as quickly as possible.”
The couple, along with more than 100 volunteers, make calls, are placed on hold and wait, all to secure appointments for those who need it most.
“Because there is a gap between the information and the seniors. The gap is technology,” said Schwartz. “The amount of tears that have been shed because we call and we say, ‘Hey, we have an appointment for you. It’s going to be tomorrow. Just bring your ID. You have to be there at 1,’ and the tears start coming out. That’s what keep us going.”
South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info has more than 18,000 members and continues to grow.
“We just want to help as best as we can, and if we can make this a little bit easier for somebody else or for a grandparent, then we feel like we’ve done a good job,” said Quirk.
For more information about making an appointment at Miami-Dade vaccination sites, click here. For sites in Broward, click here.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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