But Benjamin Kagan of the Chicago Vaccine Angels is taking the fieldwork away from those who don’t have the time, resources, or computer skills to locate a dose.
The 14-year-old tracks where and when vaccines are available and makes appointments for people on a waiting list.
“It is a great feeling to be able to help people. I personally helped 115 people,” Kagan said.
Kagan first discovered she had a knack for navigating the vaccine system when she helped her grandparents who live in Florida. On winter break at the time, he spent hours remotely browsing various websites in that state and eventually got them dates.
“I kept trying,” Kagan said. “We had four computers open and we were testing all of them and I was lucky.”
Then, Kagan found out about a group called Vaccine Hunters. At first he volunteered with the Chicago chapter, offering advice on locating the vaccine.
“I started getting all these private messages that said, Benjamin, we need help, Benjamin, I can’t book it myself Benjamin, please help me,” he said.
Kagan made a spreadsheet of a growing list of people who need vaccines and where doses are available.
He said he found them by searching pharmacy and grocery store websites, especially late at night. That database helped him start his own group, Chicago Vaccine Angels.
“He has a huge heart,” said his mother Ali Kagan. “He is a boy who has always had a big heart, he has a lot of time and love for his grandparents and I think this translates because he realizes how difficult it is, especially for older people.”
It was also difficult for Ashley Novoa, whose work in the community takes her in and out of shelters. He got the vaccine with the help of Kagan.
“We have these people who are stepping up and then a teenager, who might be out there doing things with his friends. So it’s amazing,” Novoa said.
“It is an incredibly rewarding feeling to be able to say that I helped this person. It may have saved his life,” Kagan said.
Kagan said she would like to see a single website that lists all the places in the area that offer vaccines and the hours they are available.
In the meantime, he said he is happy to do what he can to help.
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