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‘I Am Blown Away’: Strangers Are Helping Strangers Get Vaccinated

After snagging appointments for themselves or their parents, some New Yorkers have joined a growing movement to assist others.

By Alyson Krueger

Last month Ellen and Gary Goldberg, retirees who live in Bellmore, Long Island, spent three fraught days trying to get appointments for a Covid-19 vaccination. Every website they checked recommended trying again in March. They called the hotlines for New York state and Nassau County, but both were jammed with calls.

Mr. Goldberg, 75, then came across a stranger’s post in a neighborhood Facebook group: “If anyone has a family member, friend or knows someone who is elderly and needs help pre-registering or registering online for the Covid-19 vaccine, I am happy to help,” it said. The person was not asking for money and said, “I don’t care how long it takes.”

Mr. Goldberg wanted to contact the stranger immediately, but Ms. Goldberg was more skeptical. “You have to give your personal information to make appointments,” she said. “A lot of people get targeted for scams when they are elderly.”

But Mr. Goldberg won the debate and reached out to the stranger, Harriet Diamantidis, a 36-year-old executive assistant who lives in nearby Merrick. Within a few hours, Ms. Diamantidis had procured appointments for the couple at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Ms. Goldberg, 73, remained skeptical until she and her husband showed up at the high school, she said. “But we both got our vaccine, and we even have follow-up appointments for the second dose on Feb. 27.”

The Goldbergs have stayed in touch with Ms. Diamantidis, who, it turns out, visits the same community pool they do in the summer. “I told her I wanted to send her something, but she wouldn’t accept it,” Mr. Goldberg said. “So now I’ve decided I will buy her a pretzel and a soda at the pool.”

Getting an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine in New York State requires persistence, luck and, arguably, above-average computer skills. There are multiple websites and often a two-step verification process. Appointments are scarce; sitting in front of a computer and hitting “refresh” hundreds of times a day has become a new pandemic ritual.

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