Drop, refresh, glitch.
Intake form, bot, CVS jail, high traffic, tabs.
Vax. Need a pair. Screenshot. Confirm.
Too far, time running out, release it, booking, sign in.
Good luck tonight.
Such words and phrases have been commonplace for Suzanne O’Rourke and her group of South Brunswick Viking Vaccinators, who have been volunteering to secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the community at large.
In February, O’Rourke began by helping some friends get their parents COVID vaccine appointments.
“After having success, I moved to helping on the NJ COVID Vaccine Info Facebook page, helping strangers in New Jersey find appointments for their loved ones. Then I put a post on the South Brunswick Community Facebook page offering help to those who qualified and needed help in our township. From that point on my focus was helping our community,” she said.
She said one night on the CVS website she got the dreaded “glitch” screen and “panicked” as she had a list of people she had promised to help.
“I posted that I needed help and that’s when I met my first volunteer, Nicole Rose. She helped me through that night and we became fast friends. We would each work separately night after night on our own lists, but we would check in with each other, usually around 3 a.m. or 5 a.m., to see if either of us needed help,” O’Rourke said.
Eventually, O’Rourke’s South Brunswick list grew and it became clear she could not do it alone, she said.
“Nicole offered to help me and over the next two weeks more volunteers offered to help. I did ask questions as I didn’t have time to train someone on the various ins and outs of each website and how to secure appointments. Most of my volunteers had been helping either their own family and friends or were volunteering on the New Jersey COVID site or WGIRLS (a women’s empowerment group).
“Today we now have 11 of us working together around the clock to secure these appointments, including myself, Nicole Rose, Christine David Resnick, Regina Boudwin, Radhika Krishnan, Kavita Surve Pawale, Viji Rao, Supriya Nishikant, Sireesha Ramakrishnaand, Jen Chanese-Barany and one who wishes to remain anonymous.
“This group of women is extremely dedicated. They have worked endless days in a row with no sleep. One volunteer even worked the night before her wedding and during her honeymoon, another worked while also caring for her sick child. We share a bond of the desire to make a difference and help others. Together we have worked together to successfully book hundreds of appointments for South Brunswick residents,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke filters most of the requests, and she keeps a master list with the contact person’s name, the name of the person/people they requested who need(s) assistance, their age, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, qualifier and how far they are willing to travel.
She will also mention special details, such as if couples are involved, so the volunteer knows if they need to secure two spots at the same location at about the same time.
Sometimes the volunteers coordinate together, all looking for a particular location right around the same time so that if two volunteers grab one slot each, a couple can be booked together.
Although most appointments are scheduled from midnight to 6 a.m., O’Rourke said, if someone notices an opening during the day, they will send a group message with a link to the booking site.
“Then, whoever is around will jump on their computer and try to grab slots. Once we secure the day and time appointment, we communicate to see who else is still on the list and we get them booked. Teamwork is the key to our success.
“You know you are a volunteer when you look at your computer and you have eight CVS tabs open as well as Rite Aid, Walgreens, Weiss, ShopRite, Acme, Walmart, VaxMaxx, Twitter, Facebook NJ COVID page and GoodRX. We jump from tab to tab all day and night.
“The volunteers have shared booking tips with each other, late night laughs, and we communicate daily. … We have expressed early morning frustrations when we stay up all night with no appointment openings and late night celebrations when we realize we have booked 70 appointments in 48 hours together.
“It’s the feeling of gratitude that keeps us going even when we feel frustrated or exhausted. There is no better feeling than when we successfully secure appointments and someone lets us know we have made their day, shares a photo or tells us how we helped them,” she said.
Although Patrick and Suzanne O’Rourke, and their twin South Brunswick High School sophomores Drew and Katelyn, have not contracted COVID-19, Suzanne’s father, who lives in Maryland, has been in the hospital for more than six months battling the novel coronavirus.
“COVID has shut down his entire system. He needs 100% care and is still currently fighting his battle in the hospital,” she said.