The Elusive Hunt for Shots Saved by Social Media

At a time, when “unprecedented” became the most over-used word of 2020, the world waited in anticipation for a COVID-19 vaccine. By December of that same year, not one but three different vaccines were approved and procured in Canada. The shots-in-arms “roll-out” began, and mass confusion and frustration ensued. Here in Ontario, residents were directed to register online, by age and health groups, with Ontario Health. Then on an announced day, much like getting tickets to Adelle or The Biebs, you had to be among the lucky first in line to vie for limited vaccine appointments at a city-run clinics. Alternatively, you could try to snag an appointment at various pharmacies, which meant registering on a half-dozen different websites. To both the technically astute and technophobes alike, it was vaccine chaos! 

As someone who lives with a chronic disease and is on immunosuppression therapies, I was anxious to get my shot and qualified in the early months. I registered at every possible location and waited anxiously to be called upon.  And waited. And waited. Scrolling Facebook one afternoon, I saw a post in our local community group stating that one of the big-chain drug stores close by was taking reservations by telephone.  (Apparently, the online system that people had registered on wasn’t even working.) I immediately called and booked a spot for a few days later. Of course, I then I told some friends who did the same. Thank you, Facebook!

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

In the weeks that followed, it became clear word-of-mouth was the best tool to finding vaccine availability. And who has the largest, word-of-mouth network? Social media of course. This is where Vaccine Hunters Canada was born. Led by Andrew Young who was trying to book vaccinations for his parents, Vaccine Hunters are a group of 100 plus volunteers who stepped up to help get Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19.

Largely through the Twitter following they built (283,000 followers) along with other popular platforms; Discord, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, the volunteers at Vaccine Hunters gathered vaccine appointment information from clinics and pharmacies across Ontario and worked tirelessly to share it and help Canadians get vaccinated. 

Almost a year later with 83.6% of all people, 5 years + in Ontario who have received at least two doses, we have the power of social media and Vaccine Hunters to thank for the “unprecedented” assist. 

How did your vaccine appointments go down? Did you hit any obstacles or was it a smooth shot? Drop a comment below.

Twitter: @VaxHuntersCan stepped up to help thousands of Canadians find vaccine appointments. #COVID19ON   #VHCON

Facebook: @vaxhunterscan volunteers worked tirelessly to get shots-in-arms when government websites led to mass disappointment.

Take Two Pills and Join a Facebook Group

Take Two Pills and Join a Facebook Group

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Have a headache? Google “brain tumour.” Forgot where you put your keys? Google “Alzheimers.” A mole on your back? “Google skin cancer.” Hopefully, you followed up your Dr. Google query with a doctor appointment and you didn’t have any serious health issues. But for many others, a handful of symptoms, can begin the long road to a chronic illness diagnosis. 

What then? Overwhelmed with this health news, frightened, and feeling alone. Do you take the two pills as prescribed by your specialist who spent no less than 10 years in medical school and a gazillion dollars in debt, to qualify to be your specialist or ask the twelve-thousand strangers on the Facebook group that you just joined if that’s what you should do? I get it. Your doctor was in a rush, and you forgot to ask any questions. 

So here you are, online, sharing the intimate details of your illness and seeking advice. You’re there to connect with others who understand what you’re going through, to gain from their experiences, to feel supported. But what happens when @johnny123 said that the medication gave him a rash, so he stopped taking it, then @suzy_in_the_city comments that it didn’t work for her at all, @love_life1989 lets you know that the medication cured them and @peace_forever tells you to start Yoga and drink green juice smoothies.  

While joining a Facebook might seem tempting, the advice you get is not always the most trustworthy. In fact, Facebook announced new policies in September 2020 to keep Facebook groups safe, stating, “Facebook Groups, including health groups, can be a positive space for giving and receiving support during difficult life circumstances. At the same time, it’s crucial that people get their health information from authoritative sources. To prioritize connecting people with accurate health information, we are starting to no longer show health groups in recommendations.”

Before you join a Facebook health group, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  1. Seek private groups that have a screening questionnaire – this helps to ensure you are the right fit for the group.
  2. Be sure there is an active admin who is moderating posts.
  3. Read the rules and abide by them. 
  4. Before you ask questions, do a search in the group on the subject. Chances are most people have already discussed whatever you are about to ask.
  5. Leave if you don’t feel it’s a supportive, helpful environment. 
  6. Always, always consult with your own physician – they are the real pros. 

Have you joined a Facebook group seeking health support? Did you find the answers you were looking for?

Twitter: Looking for cures? Before you join a Facebook health support group, read these 6 tips. #findingsupport

Facebook: Recently diagnosed with a chronic illness? Looking for answers and support? Find the group that is right for you.. here’s how.