BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As retired registered nurses, Julie Cunningham and Linda Palmer have given a lot of injections.
Now, the Whitehouse women are teaming up to help others get the COVID-19 vaccine – an effort that earned them recognition by Whitehouse Village Council this week.
When vaccines started rolling out a few months ago, Julie ran into roadblocks trying to book an appointment for her 91-year-old mom. A few weeks later, as she tried to schedule a shot for her husband, John, Julie said she felt like she went through a battle.
“I tried five times in a row. If you don’t work quickly, your time slot will be taken away from you,” Julie said. “I thought, ‘What are all these other people doing?’”
With a 30-year career at Flower Hospital and experience in case management for Paramount Advantage, Julie knew she could help, so she began searching websites and seeking information to share on the Whitehouse Community Discussion Facebook page, Anthony Wayne Area Free Stuff Facebook page and on her church’s website.
At the same time, Linda, who retired after 28 years at St. Luke’s and per diem work in other hospitals, was going through a similar experience.
“My husband was working out at the St. Luke’s cardiac rehab with another man who doesn’t have a cell phone or computer, so he couldn’t access the websites,” she said. “If he’s like that, how many other people out there don’t know how to access these sites?”
Not everyone understands how to utilize the appointment scheduling websites – or has the time or computer access to do it, Linda said.
After seeing Linda comment on her posts, Julie invited her to join forces. Both are sharing updates on vaccine sites and answering questions post on Facebook.
“We’ll even book the appointment for them if necessary,” Julie said.
In addition, Julie was contacted by an area pharmacy that was inundated with calls and wanted someone who could reach out to the older population, so she’s contacting area churches and organizations.
“I’m sure there are others out there who really need assistance in making an appointment,” she said.
Together, the Whitehouse duo has assisted over 50 people in finding appointments. Their information has also aided those who have computer access but want to keep up with the latest vaccination clinics and appointment times.
Both encourage people to be persistent, look at all options and follow up quickly. When Linda was booking her own appointment, she checked back every half-hour, even though she was getting a response that said, “No appointments available. Check back next week.” She booked an appointment by the end of the day.
When Gov. Mike DeWine extended vaccine eligibility to those 50 and older, the demand increased, but more vaccine sites are now opening. Soon, the Lucas County Rec Center in Maumee will be a mass vaccination site, able to provide as many as 20,000 vaccines a week, depending on the vaccine supply, Julie said.
“I like the way the governor has delineated age groups so we’re not flooding the system,” Linda said.
Both have heard questions from those who would prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it’s just one dose, but the two women suggest taking whatever shot is available at the time, especially as they are all shown to be safe and effective.
One suggestion the nurses offer: Don’t take any over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or Advil in the six hours preceding the shot. Both recommend taking Tylenol and drinking lots of water after getting a shot.
Some resources for booking a vaccine appointment include:
• Vaxxmax.com is for appointments at RiteAid and Walgreens.
• Findashot.org has lists of open appointments at retailers.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operates vaccinefinder.org.
• Lucas County’s site is https://lucascountyhealth.com/covidvaccine.