Volunteers helping Southborough teachers and seniors book Vaccine appointments

A group of Southborough mothers have been volunteering their time and energy to book Covid-19 vaccination appointments for Southborough teachers and seniors.

Plenty of news reports and local anecdotes have painted a grim picture of the state’s process for booking an appointment at a Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic. Many have found it frustrating and time consuming, complaining of hours spent online without successfully booking an appointment.

Thankfully, some volunteers in the community have been working to help busy teachers book appointments. They have also been reaching out to help Southborough seniors who felt outmatched by the system.

This effort shouldn’t be confused with the Town’s signup sheet launched in early February. That effort was just to alert residents of local Vaccine Clinic opportunities so they could sign up themselves. Residents were notified that booking appointments would be up to them.

Unfortunately, following the rollout of that program, the state began focusing distribution of the vaccine towards mass vaccination sites. As a result, most local clinics were halted.

The newer volunteer effort is to book actual appointments. Volunteers collect just enough information. Then, instead of teachers and seniors trying to navigate the process themselves, volunteers do it for them.

The online signup sheet explains:

This does not guarantee an appointment. Community volunteers. . . will be using their amazing skills that have secured so many appointments for teachers and seniors already to keep helping our community get the COVID vaccine. Email kim.tolander@gmail.com if you are able to secure an appointment for yourself before you hear back from a volunteer.

This form can also be used by Southborough senior citizens that need assistance.

Please note that by filling out this form, you understand that your information will be shared with volunteers and it will be used to attempt to secure an appointment for a COVID vaccination.

Despite the caveat, the volunteers have an impressive success rate. (More on that below.)

The signup sheet and volunteers don’t ask for patients’ insurance information (or social security or financial information). The state’s registration system originally required insurance details when booking appointments. (It was one of the vexing details frustrated residents have complained about.) More recently, they added the option to select “I don’t know that information now”. (Patients will need to bring that information to their appointments.)

Finn Principal Clayton Ryan shared the news of the volunteer effort with me. It appears this was organized by volunteer parents of students in Southborough’s public schools. The form allows teachers who live in Southborough but don’t teach in the district to sign up. But, it makes clear that district teachers will be prioritized.

I reached out to the volunteer Kim Tolander to learn more. 

Tolander explained that the effort grew out of Facebook posts. Sydney Lyndstrom offered to help people and others chimed in. Tolander helped bring some more organization to the effort, but called those making the calls for friends and neighbors even before there was a clear process “the real rockstars”. One of the volunteers, Cami Aspi, helped over 150 people get appointments so far! Additional helpers include Jessica Gallagher, Lori Moore, Amelia Braun, and Kelly Hurley.

The effort going forward is a bit up in the air. It may not prove necessary after the state launches its new “pre-registration” system tomorrow. (Details were just announced yesterday.)* However, that site is solely for the mass vaccination clinics. Volunteers may still be able to help with clinics through CVS, etc. If there are changes to their process, they will update the information on their signup sheet.

And given how frustrating past rollouts of the state’s system have proven to be, seniors may prefer to rely on the local ladies to navigate the system for them.

*The state is launching a site to allow those qualified to register for vaccines to input their information to request an appointment at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites. Once registered, residents wait to learn about an appointment then need to confirm the appointment within 24 hours. (You can read more here.)

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