Finding a vaccine is like finding a rare jewel for some. Many are still waiting to receive an appointment after signing up on multiple lists, so when the opportunity arises to get a shot without an appointment, people jump on it.
That's what happened over the weekend at Parkland Hospital in Dallas after word got out that the hospital had extra vaccines for people over the age of 65. There was no widespread publicity about it, but somehow the information got out, and through word-of-mouth, people showed up for their shot.
It's unclear how many people received their first dose over the weekend, but based on a Facebook group called DFW Covid Vaccine Finder several people were able to arrive without an appointment and get inoculated.
"We got up at 5:30 a.m. and headed down there and It was beautiful, it was well organized, we didn't have to stop at any point, it was just station A, station B, get your shot, people in the parking lot show you where to go, it was excellent, so we were thrilled with that," said Jon Battle, 74, who received his first shot with his wife on Sunday.
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He happened to be one of the admins for the Facebook group but saw a post that caught his attention from a different member.
Payal Patel joined the Facebook group a couple of weeks ago to help family members and others find vaccines.
Patel said she heard about walk-ups happening at Parkland from someone else after Farmers Branch City Council member Cristal Retana posted on her Facebook page about extra vaccines at Parkland for those over 65.
In Retana's post, she asked people to message her with their information. Patel did but hadn't heard back, so she called Parkland to find out if it was true.
"She (an operator) said, 'Well you don't really need an appointment, you can walk in right now.' I couldn't believe it because it was too good to be true," Patel said.
After some family members drove to Parkland and confirmed they received a shot without an appointment, Patel made a post to the DFW Covid Vaccine Finder page.
"I encouraged everybody, as many people as I could, to go because I wanted to take advantage of this because It is ridiculously hard to get an appointment anywhere. You have to be on so many lists across so many counties, and it's just hard, and I just really wanted all the seniors that were so desperate for a shot to take advantage of this," Patel said.
The post spread and so did the number of people who showed up for their first dose.
"I just wanted to be protected, there was never any question, it wasn't a question of getting a shot it was how to get the shot," said Janice Tomlin, who is over the age of 65.
She said she has a grandchild who is in school, along with a daughter who is a server and a mother who is over the age of 90. Tomlin said while she may be at risk, she also doesn't want to spread COVID-19 to anyone.
Tomlin said she has put her name down on several wait lists, but hasn't heard back, so she took a chance when she saw Patel's post.
"I got it at Parkland this morning at 9 a.m., got there at 9:03 a.m. and was out by 9:30 a.m.," Tomlin said.
Parkland Hospital said there was a mix of walk-ins and appointments over the weekend. The appointments were for people getting their second dose after a walk-up that happened several weeks ago. As for how many walk-ins were given shots on Saturday and Sunday, that information wasn't available, but some did post online that they were told there were no more shots.
"Some people did get turned away today after a certain point, but before that happened, a lot of people did get their shots so, it's words of mouth right now," Patel said.
When asked if there would be another walk-up or notification about one in the future, a spokesperson for Parkland said they can't say for now, but at this time they are only taking appointments.
That's part of the reason why groups like DFW Covid Vaccine Finder continue to grow.
Two weeks ago there were around 500 people in the group, now there are more than 11,000 members.
"What it tells me is that there's a tremendous lack of consistent, accurate information about where to go, when to go, etc. There's just an absence of it and they're looking to this group for answers, which is fine, but we certainly have the responsibility to make sure if we put out something that it's validated, it's vetted," Battle said. "We tried to verify this particular event last night, the operators didn't really know what was going on, so it was difficult for us to get hard info, and I was glad I went this morning to get some eye witness for myself."