Lawrence ‘vaccine angel’ makes an impact

Lawrenceville resident Jen Moog has been what one might call a “vaccine matchmaker,” since she decided that she would dedicate herself to helping people navigate the complex and intimidating online system that surrounds the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.PHOTO COURTESY OF LAWRENCEVILLE MAIN STREET
×
Lawrenceville resident Jen Moog has been what one might call a “vaccine matchmaker,” since she decided that she would dedicate herself to helping people navigate the complex and intimidating online system that surrounds the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.PHOTO COURTESY OF LAWRENCEVILLE MAIN STREET
In the last year, we have all faced both unique and shared challenges while grappling with the various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one local resident has been trying to make everyone’s lives a bit easier, helping us on the way to “normalcy,” or at least as close as we can hope to come at this point in time.
Lawrenceville resident Jen Moog has been what one might call a “vaccine matchmaker,” since she decided that she would dedicate herself to helping people navigate the complex and intimidating online system that surrounds the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Moog is a stay-at-home mom who, after a career with Johnson & Johnson, made the switch to home life after receiving a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

When the first waves of vaccine rollout occurred, back in December and January, Moog knew she would be eligible early on—she, luckily, was able to secure a vaccine appointment for herself without too much hassle, thanks to a tip from a friend who was eligible at the same time.

After working through the system herself, Moog knew that her own bookings were not going to be her last interactions with covidvaccine.nj.gov (the government registration site), since she wanted to find a way to help others get appointments with less stress than they might experience otherwise.

At first, it was just a few friends and family—the “inner circle,” if you will—who asked Moog for a bit of help in securing their time slot. And that was great—it felt like an accomplishment every time she made an appointment, coming upon them almost like happy accidents.

But these accidents quickly became much more than pure chance—Moog started to figure out the technological aspects that would make finding an opening that much easier.
In what she dubs “the Vaccine Hunger Games,” an understanding of the online bureaucracy can be all the difference between going to a local pharmacy later that week and having to drive 45 minutes after a local health worker calls you to help you set up your appointment a month later. Yet this online proficiency is a relatively rare skill, one which Moog now possesses thanks to her tireless work in trial and error, but also thanks to her network of “vaccine angels” who work together online to give each other tips about times and places for booking vaccines.

Many people who may be eligible still struggle to secure an appointment, and while they are not being overlooked in the long run, it means they are not getting the COVID shots as soon as they could be, and that’s where Moog enters the picture. Someone like a senior citizen may have known exactly when they were eligible and tried all sorts of ways to get an appointment, but in order to be in the earlier waves, one must be willing to put in consistent efforts with diverse strategies.

Moog has found that many appointments, particularly those available at pharmacies, drop at random times late at night, and the websites are constantly getting overbooked within minutes of releasing a new batch of time slots. However, the success can be quite sweet, especially when she waits an extra day or two in order to hunt for the specific location and time that someone may need.

Having embarked on the vaccine journey a couple months ago, as of March 31, Moog has been able to help book vaccine appointments for nearly 350 people: family, friends, and even total strangers. And that’s not just people in Lawrenceville, but across the State of New Jersey—with a few Pennsylvania and New York people thrown in for good measure (being vaccinated in their own states, of course).

However, she has said multiple times that she hopes quickly to work herself out of a job, seeing as New Jersey is vaccinating a larger percentage of its population than the average state; according to COVID Act Now (on April 4), New Jersey has more than 20% of its residents fully vaccinated. Furthermore, anyone over the age of 16 should be eligible by May 1, if New Jersey’s vaccination plan stays on schedule.
Therefore, her efforts are hopefully going to be relatively short-lived, assuming that increased eligibility will also come with increased vaccine availability. She very much appreciates her family for being tolerant of her sudden leaps to the computer in the middle of evening relaxation, morning routine, or even in the middle of the night—it’s rather frustrating for some, but Moog has found a way to appreciate the rush of successfully navigating the system.

Moog recommends the public Facebook group New Jersey Covid Vaccine Info, which has over a hundred thousand members and contains posts with general questions, reminders on eligibility, and suggestions for bookings. There also are two Twitter accounts that Moog follows, @nj_vaccine and @NJvaccineFinder (case sensitive).

To contact Moog, email her at jenmoog@yahoo.com
* This article was written by Gill Woody for Lawrenceville Main Street