‘People in My Group Are So White’: Facebook Vaccine Hunter Groups Underscore Inequity of Rollout
‘Vaccine hunters are the result of short supply, disorganization, inadequate sign-up systems, dire circumstances, and crowded hospitals’
In a Facebook group called Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters, a member recently shared a flyer announcing that a local shelter for people experiencing homelessness would be hosting Covid-19 vaccinations on February 11 — no appointment necessary. “Please be mindful that this clinic is intended for unsheltered people in Hennepin County,” noted the flyer, which was conspicuously addressed to individuals “living on the street.”
Later, in a separate post, another Facebook member said they’d managed to get vaccinated at the shelter. They were not homeless, as the flyer intended, but arrived late in the day and received a leftover dose from vaccination staff who said it would have otherwise been discarded. “Was suggested on this site to go at the end… and see if there would be any leftover or unused doses,” the person wrote. “I did that and there was.”
Thousands of Americans are now part of the “vaccine hunter” phenomenon, an online movement of people trading intel about where, when, and how to get vaccinated. Some are motivated by what they feel is a lethargic vaccine rollout effort. Others are driven by reports that hundreds, if not thousands of untouched doses have been thrown away since vaccination began last December. These groups have joined an effort to bring vaccines to those facing innumerable accessibility hurdles such as unequal access to technology, language barriers, and a lack of transportation, which have caused lower vaccination rates in some Black and Latino communities already harmed disproportionately by the coronavirus.
OneZero spoke to the founders of four vaccine hunter Facebook groups that, in the absence of a vaccination campaign that treats everybody’s needs equally, have become ad hoc health care support systems. The movement, while ultimately reflecting a fractured health care system, has also raised ethical quandaries about vaccine supply and demand, and who should be prioritized by the rollout. These questions are now forcing vaccine hunter…