Having hard time securing COVID-19 shot appointment? ‘Vaccine Hunters’ could help

CHARLOTTE — Securing a COVID-19 vaccine appointment hasn’t been easy for some. Channel 9 has talked to dozens of people who said they’ve been scouring online for months hoping to make one.

Anchor Genevieve Curtis learned people have now turned to technology and online communities to help each other find open appointments nearby or to get doses that might otherwise go to waste.

Julie Willis considers herself a vaccine hunter.

“When I see people having a hard time finding it, I want to help them,” she said.

Willis is part of an online community that helps people navigate tricky online registration, find open appointments or score a wasted shot. She found out pharmacies often have leftover shots from people who miss appointments. Once the vial is open, it needs to go into an arm and at the end of the day, the shot will often go to anyone who is there.

>> 1.2 million people in NC can now get vaccinated -- here’s how to make an appointment

Some places call it a “No-waste” list -- it’s not publicized and you can’t sign up online. Policies for the list vary pharmacy to pharmacy and even store to store.

“I don’t want to jump the line,” Willis said. “I don’t want to prevent anyone who really really needs this vaccine more than me from getting the vaccine, but I don’t want any of those doses to be wasted.”

Willis is a professor but at the time, educators in South Carolina couldn’t get the shot and her family worried for her husband, who has underlying conditions. She got on a waiting list for leftover vaccine at a local Walmart that was prioritized by eligibility group. A few days later, she got a call saying they could come in for a shot.

“It was awesome,” she said. “It was like winning the lottery.”

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

Now, she uses her experience to hunt for shots for others.

From Waxhaw to Mooresville and Fort Mill to Hickory, hundreds of people in the Carolinas are connecting on Facebook to find vaccine for their neighbors.

“In the end, we want all of us to be vaccinated,” Willis said.