HARWICH — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in different ways. For many people, the stay-at-home and reduced socialization directives have created a sheltered atmosphere. But not for Kate Seeley.
Seeley is using her time to assist people struggling to obtain COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
The West Harwich resident said she took a leave of absence from her job at the Outer Cape Health Service Women, Infants and Children Program in September to devote time to her eight-year-old daughter Juliet and three-year-old son Finn and their school activities. Juliet is attending school remotely and Finn attends pre-school three days a week.
“Basically they are my main employer right now,” Seeley said of the time she is spending helping with school work and transportation.
When her husband, Nick Seeley, a teaching assistant at Monomoy Regional High School, was eligible for his vaccine, Kate, who says she is very computer savvy, took on the challenge of getting him an appointment. She said he was one of the first people in his cohort on the Cape to get the vaccine.
Seeley’s mother, Bernadette Waystack, also works in the school system. So Seeley began helping other teachers in the Monomoy Regional School District obtain appointments. She has booked appointments for at least a dozen teachers. Her husband’s father, a Yarmouth resident, was also having a hard time booking his shot, and Seeley stepped in and landed him an appointment.
“My goal has always been to help people,” Seeley said. “I have the ability and time to help people. I’ve always done outreach type jobs and I’m very familiar with working with the elderly population. I can help people who can’t do it.”
Her efforts are paying off. Seeley said last week that she has obtained appointments for about 35 people, mostly local residents, many elderly who do not have the computer expertise to complete what can be a cumbersome process.
“They are so appreciative and amazed,” she said. “They tell me I’m a magician or an angel, which I am neither; its good luck and patience.”
She joined Vaccine Hunters/Angels of Massachusetts, an open group that provides tips for people trying to book appointments. There are a lot of people willing to help, Seeley said. She has also reached out on social media to let people know she is available to help.
One woman saw her post on social media and contacted her, explaining her difficulty getting an appointment. Seeley said the woman had a winter rental in Harwich but was moving to Pennsylvania in April. She wanted to get a shot before she left, but was concerned she might not be able to get the second shot once she relocated. Seeley was able to get the woman the single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“You moved the mountain for me,” the woman told her.
“I’m not doing this for any other reason but to help people,” Seeley said. “I’m not doing this as a business. I won’t accept money.”
It’s not just the people who don’t have computers who are having problems. Even those comfortable online are having trouble. Seeley said it took her a couple of weeks to find the tips necessary to figure out how to do it, “and I’m computer savvy.”
The vaccine hunter said she has the time and wants to use it to do something productive. And it can be a time-consuming process. Seeley puts in four to five hours a day booking appointments. Often, landing appointments means processing applications at 2 or 3 a.m. She handles between two and six applications per day.
The CVS site is the easiest to book, she said, but that must be done early in the morning. Walgreens can be a little more difficult; the company requires booking two appointments, but there have been issues with not having a second shot date available. The Massachusetts immunization website is the most difficult, she said. It’s glitchy and requires a lot of waiting. Through the vaccine hunters group, however, she’s learned to circumnavigate the wait on the site.
There are still people from the first group eligible for immunization who have not had heir first shot yet. Seeley said they should reach out, call their fire department or doctor. There are also people on social media that can help.
“There is a community there where people can help out,” she said. “Don’t get frustrated and give up. Reach out.”
Seeley said she has worked with up to 10 people in one day. If she gets too many requests, she can refer people to others in the area who are also helping to locate appointments. Seeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.