Like many, Melissa Cohen and Stacey Labell were frustrated at the start of the vaccine rollout. “I knew there had to be leftovers. There’s not enough people showing up in the exact multiples of what these shots are before they expire,” Labell told Six Feet Apart. Labell met Cohen while scouring sites to better understand the distribution process. “Melissa asked if I wanted to do something with her regarding the leftovers and I said, you know what? I would. I’m tired of complaining.”
So the two launched Leftovervaccinehunters.com, a website connecting residents in South Florida to unused shots.
We spoke with Melissa and Stacey to find out more.
“Don’t just complain about things, change them.”Stacey Labell, Co-Founder leftovervaccinehunters.com
Q&A With Melissa Cohen & Stacey Labell
Q: How did you initially get this idea for Vaccine Hunters off the ground?
SL: The turnaround time was crazy quick. Melissa got one of her friends to create a database and a website and then we just started making phone calls. Day and night we called anybody we could think of like the governor, people in Congress, The Department of Health, pharmacies and hospitals. We realized that corporate pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS were working their own leftover lists so we concentrated our efforts on the people who were excited about what we were doing like smaller pharmacies, hospitals, and churches.
Q: How does the site work?
SL: The distributor signs up with us, calls us nightly and let’s us know how many leftovers are available and then we go through our database and match people up. We’ve had hundreds of people taken off our list by getting a vaccine through our program or posts on our Facebook group.
Q: What are your backgrounds and how did they help you make this happen?
SL: I am a business owner.
MC: I’m an RN (Registered Nurse). I’ve been able to get in touch with certain hospitals to obtain information so that’s helped a bit and Stacey doesn’t take no for an answer. We make great partners.
Q: Can people outside of Florida take advantage of your program?
MC: We thought we’d go nationwide. Walmart actually spoke with us about that but they decided they’d be able to handle the leftover list themselves. They’re doing it, but it’s a lot of work. It’s not like they’re hiring extra pharmacists to deal with the leftovers.
Q: For people in other states who want to launch similar programs, how do you suggest they get started?
SL:: The first step is to start a Facebook group. Then you’ll need to create a database, figure out where the vaccinations are, and start making a lot of phone calls.
MC: There are some other ones out there. I believe one is out of San Francisco. They’re definitely sprouting up. In democratic states, you would hope that help would be available to make sure none of these vaccines were being wasted.
Q: Do you see starting future businesses together?
MC: This is our passion right now and I gained a friend out of this for sure.
SL: I really love the way to feels to help people so could this evolve into another passion project? Maybe.
MC: Hopefully everyone will be eligible soon and we won’t need to help anybody else. Let’s get everybody back to school and end this pandemic.
SL: Right. I need to be able to travel again!
Aimed at matching willing people in the Florida area with expiring Covid vaccine doses so that anyone can get their first shot.