Judy Burds is one of the moderators of a Facebook group working to connect Georgians to information and appointments for boosters and COVID-19 vaccine availability for children. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.

Screenshot of Facebook group cover image of covid vaccine bottle

A group of volunteers is helping people find appointments to get booster and vaccine appointments for children.

Credit: Screenshot

Back in January, a handful of women founded the “Georgia COVID Vax Appointment Help” group on Facebook.

Group moderator Judy Burns said the members are all volunteers assisting neighbors find vaccine appointments in Georgia.

Everything started Jan. 20 on Facebook, after the women realized the difficulty their own parents had with finding COVID-19 vaccine when they first became eligible.

"It was really important to me for my parents to get vaccinated," Kelly Hanretta told GPB News earlier this year. "As soon as the governor announced that he would be opening the vaccination to patients or people 65 and older, I just really made it my mission to get my parents vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health were criticized for not prioritizing more people working in high-risk settings.

Some district superintendents, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Atlanta School Board wrote letters urging Kemp to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers, but Kemp said the supply simply wasn't available.

In the early days of vaccine availability, Georgians even crossed state lines to get inoculated.

Hanretta found help from women like Burns, who said the group grew rapidly as people wanted to get the vaccines in the January and early February time frame.

"Many of those people were folks who needed assistance either with a computer or in trying to locate somewhat scarce numbers of appointments that were available," Burns said.

READ: Here's some COVID news to be grateful for — kids 5 and up could get vaccinated by Thanksgiving

Volunteers wanted to help those unfamiliar with technology get their shots. Now, they're navigating new questions.

"In the last couple of weeks, we've seen folks returning and asking two questions," Burds said. "One: perhaps they were in that group that had Moderna so they're looking for their booster shot or they're eager to get more information about their 5- to 11-year-olds."

And the number of vetted members has surged to more than 19,000 — so the group is private.

"When we started growing and increasing, we wanted to make sure that the group would stay focused on people in Georgia who were seeking help," Burds said. "We had interest from overseas and trying to learn from our page and how they might replicate it."

Also, she said the moderators wanted to ensure people with their own agendas — folks who don't support the group's mission to get people in Georgia vaccinated — weren't part of the community.

While membership plateaued as COVID vaccine became more widely available, new information means more questions.

"Any time the FDA approves and the CDC recommends a new regimen, we find an uptick in questions, an uptick in interest, sometimes a request from people to rejoin the group or some new people," Burds said, "but not nearly to the extent of questions that we had in the January, February, March time frame."

Burds said the group points Georgians to the latest science and information on COVID-19 vaccines and where they can go to get one.