By Katie Nielsen

FREMONT (KPIX) — While millions of people across California have been able to get a COVID vaccine, many who are eligible in the Bay Area say they’re struggling to find an appointment. That’s where some online vaccine hunters are stepping in to help.

“I’m a mechanical engineer. I work for a major tech company here in the Bay Area,” says Michael Brockman. He doesn’t have a healthcare background but says he’s become an expert in navigating the COVID vaccine appointment websites.

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“When I found out that some of my neighbors and other eligible family members were having trouble booking through the various online appointment systems, I figured I might be able to use some of the tech skills that I have to help them secure appointments,” says Brockman.

So far, he says he’s helped more than two dozen eligible people successfully book appointments for a COVID vaccine.

“It is sort of frustrating that this is underground knowledge, but the knowledge is out there to a certain extent and it’s kind of a matter of getting to it,” says Brockman.

One person created a Twitter bot (@CovidVaccineCA) to help those who are eligible find appointments. An automated program searches the MyTurn website constantly for available slots, then Tweets out the details.

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Another online tool is the Facebook group “Bay Area Vaccine Hunters”. It was started barely a month ago by Fremont residents Abhishek Daryani and his wife, Pooja Anandani.

“We were just talking one day and were like, let’s create a group. Then we were wondering, who would even join?” said Abhishek. Both he and his wife work in tech and live in Fremont. Their Facebook group now has more than 4,500 members all sharing information. The group has a strict “No-line Jumping” policy. Any posts where ineligible people are looking to get tips on how to get a vaccine are deleted.

“If young people or other people are just jumping in line, that’s not fair to the ones who are more in need,” says Abhishek.

Those involved with these online groups say they were created out of necessity. There were so many people feeling frustrated because the current systems is being able to meet the need. It’s a situation that could get amplified in the coming weeks as millions more Californians will be eligible to get a shot starting on March 15.

“We are hopefully going to be getting more and more vaccine over the next three weeks. The last thing we want is any glitches in the program we are providing now,” says Santa Clara Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez.

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She says the county is so concerned about transitioning to a state wide vaccination appointment system, it’s asked to opt-out. Several other counties, including Los Angeles, have asked to do the same. Chavez says the system already in place in Santa Clara County is capable of meeting the needs of the community and changing the system now would be a mistake.