CHESTERLAND, Ohio — Several months into the vaccination process, many Ohioans are familiar with the Vaccine Queens.
The pair has now inspired a younger generation to help those in need schedule vaccine appointments.
“If you want a vaccine, access should not be the reason you cannot receive one,” Gabi Cicerini said.
As vaccination efforts are top-of-mind for most Americans, all eyes are on Generation Z.
“I had the problem that everyone else has and that is finding appointments,” Henry Warren said. “It was really hard. I think I had less than a minute to schedule an appointment that was over an hour away from my house.”
The generation of teens and young adults is known for peak technological expertise, so Hawken School juniors and seniors decided to put their savvy to good use.
“We’ve been talking about the vaccine. In the fall we learned about vaccine trials and what it takes to get approval,” teacher Jennie Becker said. “They have the tools to help other people. They have tablets. We have high-speed internet. It just seemed so obvious that they could use all of that privilege and opportunity to help people who are just overwhelmed by the system.”
The Teens 4 Vaccines organization came to fruition at the preparatory school after Becker realized she could help fellow staff members and her students.
“It kind of snowballed. I helped a coworker whose daughter is a student find an appointment and it was super easy,” Becker said.
Becker said she didn’t have the bandwidth to do it alone.
“I was like, ‘I need helpers. I can’t book all these appointments. Do any of you want to help? It’s really easy. You’re probably better at it than I am.,’” Becker said. “Word sort of traveled and kids were coming to me being like, ‘I heard you can help get us a vaccine appointment.’ And all of a sudden we were just making appointments for kids. We made a ton of appointments for our own student body.”
Warren created a QR code for Northeast Ohioans to scan using their smartphone that will direct them straight to the Teens 4 Vaccines web page.
“Once we kind of had that straightened out, it’s become an easier operation for us to schedule appointments,” Warren said. “People are worried about access in general. We’re trying to improve vaccine equity. So I guess I’m passionate about it because I was privileged enough to get a vaccine and I’d like to see other people have that option as well.”
Cicerini helps schedule appointments once information is submitted.
“Start looking for appointments that march their preferences and once we book an appointment, we’ll fill out their information for them and then get in contact with them that the appointment has been made,” Cicerini said.
These young adults said it’s important to use their tech proficiency for more than just TikToks and tweets.
“The most surprising is how quickly you can find appointments. I feel like I was expecting to go this entire year and hopefully get a vaccine near the end of the year before the next year,” Kennedy Cull said. “I was with my aunt actually when she got a call finding out she was getting her vaccine and I remember the pure tears of joy that she felt, and so to be able to share that with somebody else and be the person helping them is just irreplaceable.”