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Tech-savvy Tacoma seniors help those with limited internet access find COVID-19 vaccine

A group of retired educators want to help people without technical know-how or resources to adequately compete for vaccine appointments.

TACOMA, Wash. — COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out across the state, but the system for appointment booking is still very much a work in progress, and mostly online.

Because of the scarcity of vaccines, navigating the internet to find vaccine locations and availability is increasingly difficult for anyone who is technologically challenged — or who might have little to no internet access to begin with.

A group of retirees from the Tacoma area say they have a system for booking appointments that’s already helped dozens of people get the vaccine.

Bonnie McGuire is the former principal of Foss High School in Tacoma and says her group consists of five women who all worked in the school system together and are familiar with databases and “skip tracing” to track down kids.

McGuire says booking vaccine appointments takes much of the same determination and persistence that they had to teach kids.

“People see no appointments available and move on. They don’t realize that can change by the moment and how to navigate various websites to jump on openings,” McGuire said.

McGuire works virtually alongside Susan Schreurs, Sandy Wusterbarth-Brown, Robin Munson and Gayle Elijah to scour numerous websites and find appointments for people in need.

The five work as a unit and for one person at a time.

“If you’re willing to travel a bit and are flexible on dates we can find you openings” McGuire.

She and her team are eager to help those without the technical know-how or resources to adequately compete for vaccine appointments.

The team is also now focused on assisting the underrepresented in a time of mass confusion.

“We’re especially worried about folks who are not white and middle class, who don’t have the bandwidth or the technology or the access to transportation in order to get vaccines,” she said.

McGuire says the team is focusing on people coming from poverty or who live in multigenerational homes who may not be able to afford to play the game and get in the system to compete for vaccines.

The group is now offering to help train anyone who is struggling to book an appointment and hopes they can go on to help book appointments for others in their circles. They can be reached at VaccineBookers@gmail.com.