A NoVA Vaccine Hunter Making a Difference


Helene Burch

NoVA Vaccine Hunter and FHS Librarian Mary Jo Sears uses her resources to help others make vaccination appointments.

Scouting out information and sharing resources is not new for Northern Virginia (NoVA) vaccine hunter and FHS Librarian Mary Jo Sears. After hearing about the NoVA Vaccine Hunters Facebook group on the news, Sears joined to help her sister get a vaccination appointment for her diabetic nephew.
The NoVA Vaccine Hunters Facebook group’s mission is to help “eligible Northern Virginia residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations by providing accurate resources and timely information about vaccination location, reservation criteria and availability,” About Section. Today, the group is made of 15,275 members, many of which are teachers. “Teachers get the job done,” said Sears.
The group has a spreadsheet available with all the Virginia pharmacies and tips for reserving appointments at certain locations. They also reserve appointments and pass them off to someone who needs them. Sears says the group is helpful “if you’re 1b qualified but you don’t have the luck being resourceful on the computer, or if you don’t have the time or the know-how…So it’s just a matter of being resourceful in order to offer opportunities for other people.”
Sears, who enjoys the research aspect, has made over 10 appointments through word of mouth. “Just this is sort of like an opportunity that shows itself and you grab it…It’s a good fit for me to be able to just kind of pounce on information when it’s provided. It’s also kinda fun, it’s like a hunt, like we’re all the hunters,” said Sears.
Sears’ husband is a government contractor and he and his co-workers are part of the 1b group. However, they were not able to get vaccinated despite traveling to many hotspots in California, such as Los Angeles. Sears connected them with a group in Winchester so they could get vaccinated. “It’s scary you know that these are the types of people that are, because of their jobs, having to be put in situations that could be risky, and they don’t have the luxury because that’s not what their job is right now,” said Sears.
Sears has been “amazed at how many volunteer hours people are willing to put into this mission, and I’m amazed at, you know, people helping strangers…It’s just that it’s such an incredibly stressful time and, you know, just how much everyone has struggled and suffered to be able to find little pieces of humanity in all of this is really I think then rewarding.”
For anyone interested in getting involved Sears suggests “seeing what opportunities are out there outside of just the Virginia Department of Health.” She hopes that soon “the Hunters Group won’t be needed because they’ll have enough vaccines for everyone. Anyone who wants one can drive by Walgreens and get one just like a flu shot.” However, until then, she hopes to continue her work with the hunters. “We still have people getting sick and we have people dying who shouldn’t be and they just don’t have the know-how or the resources to get to places where they can get help and to get a vaccine, and that’s what this is about,” said Sears.