'Vaccine hunters': in social networks have found a way to get a vaccine against COVID-19 faster
People who have failed to make an appointment for their coronavirus vaccination are turning to Facebook groups, websites and online forums to find canceled entries, find out where to go, or simply find information that local health authorities have not provided. Axios.
These specialized online communities help people get the vaccine and prevent their doses from going to waste. But they also highlight the confusion and frustration over the US vaccine rollout, as well as the real risk of misinformation.
“We are a very entrepreneurial country and using social media to advertise vaccination opportunities is a good thing. This is where our government is not doing an adequate job, ”said Carl Minges, professor at the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven.
“Word of mouth is important, but you have to be careful about what information you publish,” he said.
Facebook pages and Reddit forums are popping up across the country, filled with posts from people looking for vaccines or having information about vaccination appointments.
- Los Angeles Covid Vaccine Hunters, a private page modeled on a similar one in New Orleans, has about 2000 members and aims to ensure that young people can receive vaccine doses that must be thrown away or expired.
- Maryland Vaccine Hunters, with 16 members, also helps people find unused doses. The group connects tech-savvy young people with elders who need help making appointments.
- Getting pittsburgh vaccinated has more than 18 members who recently discussed how to reschedule meetings and complained that some people were charging fees for their help.
- Florida Nurse and Elementary School Principal Launch Program South Florida Covid Vaccination Info in South Florida, which now has 27 members and helps seniors make appointments.
- VaccineHunter.org brings together dozens of pages dedicated to finding vaccines in one place. The r / VaccineHunters forums and related groups across the country are very active on Reddit.
- Vaxstandby.com gives providers, such as pharmacies or clinics, where unused additional doses of vaccine are stored, the ability to immediately contact people who want to get vaccinated.
It is important to know! The likelihood of fraud and misinformation is high, despite the best intentions of people to help each other. This is especially troubling for high-risk groups such as the elderly, who are not as well versed in detecting online misinformation and are more prone to fraud.
Facebook recently announced new steps to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. And it enforces its rules for moderating content in private groups, although this can be difficult on a large scale.
There is also criticism that such vaccine hunters are beating the system or bypassing the queues of people with higher priority for vaccination.
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“I think these groups are incredibly useful,” said Jennifer Golbeck, professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information Research. - There is always a risk of misinformation, but in these social groups such cases are quickly suppressed. Self-control is very important. "
However, she said, "It is very sad that you have to go to the social media forum to understand the process."
“If there was a good formal system, it wouldn't be necessary,” said Avi Federgruen, professor and supply chain expert at Columbia Business School. "This is an unfortunate development of events."
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