WHS teens help others get vaccinated


Photo courtesy of Taylor Addis

Addis and Cisneros working to book people vaccines

While vaccines are becoming available to more people, not everyone has the time, technological skill and accessibility to go through the tedious process of booking a vaccination appointment. Whether it be refreshing CVS’s website for hours on end or calling every Walgreens in a 25-mile radius, getting vaccinated isn’t as simple as showing up to the doctor’s office whenever is most convenient. Fortunately, there are Westfield community members who are dedicated and willing to put in the time and effort to help those eligible get vaccinated. 

WHS junior Samara Useloff is one of these community members. Useloff started booking people vaccine appointments when her mom needed one and was unable to find an opening. After researching different vaccination clinics and working with an online bot that notified her when there was availability, she was able to book her mom an appointment. Since this initial success, she now books around 15 appointments per week. “My mom told her friends that I got her an appointment, and they started reaching out to their friends and put me in contact with eligible people who needed vaccines,” said Useloff. “Eventually things took off [from there].”

In most cases, vaccine appointments are scheduled online. Every vaccination site has a different platform and in order to effectively schedule multiple appointments, people need to not only know the ins and outs of the booking process, but also the tech world. Useloff explained how she first found vaccination openings through Twitter notifications and later was able to take matters into her own hands once she got more comfortable with the process. 

“Once I got familiar with CVS’s website, I started ‘cheating’ the system,” said Useloff. “I found that Hawaii had appointments all the time, so I would originally go in through Hawaii so that I would be in the system at midnight when the first set of appointments dropped. Once the clock hit midnight, I would switch over to New Jersey. These tricks I learned made booking a lot more efficient.” Useloff also discovered that downloading an auto-refresh extension on her computer would help search the web for vaccination openings every 50 seconds for the Meadowlands Mega Vaccination Site. 

Useloff’s hard work does not go unnoticed by those she has helped. Amanda Rickert, a WHS junior who Useloff booked a vaccine appointment for, said, “Getting vaccines for people takes a lot of dedication and hard work which is something I think most people don’t realize. I know Samara has stayed up into the early morning booking people vaccines because she genuinely cares about people’s well-being.”

Useloff is not alone in trying to find people vaccine appointments. WHS junior Taylor Addis and her aunt Michele Cisneros formed Gen2Gen, a group of teens dedicated to booking vaccination appointments for the elderly. “I got involved because I realized it has been difficult for senior citizens to get vaccines,” said Addis. “Many elderly people were having trouble accessing the internet and technology and were getting left behind.”  

The group, which started with 12 volunteers including Addis, her childhood friends and WHS classmates, quickly gained popularity and now has over 100 volunteers who work to book vaccines and help with transportation to appointments. Every senior citizen who is looking to work with Gen2Gen fills out a form with basic personal information needed to book a vaccine and is then assigned a volunteer. Each volunteer focuses on finding vaccine appointments for their assigned senior citizen and emails the person with an appointment confirmation when everything has been booked. 

However, even with 100 volunteers working to find the elderly vaccines, the process is still not easy. “With such high demand, the appointments tend to be booked within minutes of becoming available. That is why booking appointments has been so challenging for seniors and is even difficult for our tech-savvy volunteers,” said Addis. 

While booking vaccines may be tiring and difficult work, both Addis and Useloff have found joy in helping to protect others from COVID-19. Useloff said, “My favorite part of helping people get appointments is receiving a picture of them and their vaccine card. The smiles on their faces and seeing how appreciative everyone is makes me happy.”

Similarly, Addis explained that “it’s been an amazing experience” and “been so nice to know that with a little hard work, anyone can make a difference.”