NEW YORK – As the pandemic continues, Greek-American Harriet Diamantidis has been helping people with the scheduling of COVID vaccine appointments, the New York Times reported on Feb. 4. She is one of many who have taken it upon themselves to help eligible seniors navigate the process.
Diamantidis, 36, an executive assistant in Merrick, NY, posted 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,” the Times reported, noting that Diamantidis “was not asking for money and said, ‘I don’t care how long it takes.’”
In January, Ellen and Gary Goldberg, “retirees who live in Bellmore, Long Island, spent three fraught days trying to get appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination,” the Times reported, adding that “every website they checked recommended trying again in March.” After calling the hotlines for New York State and Nassau County, Mr. Goldberg, 75, then found Diamantidis’ post on Facebook.
Though he “wanted to contact the stranger immediately,” his wife “was more skeptical,” the Times reported.
“You have to give your personal information to make appointments,” she told the Times. “A lot of people get targeted for scams when they are elderly.”
Mr. Goldberg “won the debate” and the couple contacted Diamantidis who within a few hours, “procured appointments for the couple at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn,” the Times reported.
Mrs. Goldberg, 73, “remained skeptical until she and her husband showed up at the high school,” she told the Times, “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,” the Times reported.
“I told her I wanted to send her something, but she wouldn’t accept it,” Mr. Goldberg told the Times. “So now I’ve decided I will buy her a pretzel and a soda at the pool.”
The process of “getting an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine in New York State requires persistence, luck and, arguably, above-average computer skills,” the Times reported, adding that “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.”
Diamantidis, “who grew up in the Rockaways, got the idea to volunteer after helping her grandmother, 96, and mother, 71, get appointments last month,” the Times reported, adding that “during the process, she said, she couldn’t stop thinking about other New Yorkers who didn’t have family or friends to help them. So, she posted her offer on Facebook.”
“Within an hour, she had received some 15 requests,” and “that first night, she stayed up until 2 AM making appointments for people like the Goldbergs,” the Times reported. “At first my husband was like, ‘What are you doing?’” she said, the Times reported, adding that “after hearing her on the phone with a New Yorker who seemed befuddled and lost, he decided to help, too.”
Diamantidis and her husband, Niko, “set up first-time Gmail addresses,” for many of the people who asked for their help, “so they could easily validate accounts,” the Times reported.
“We lost count of how many appointments we made after 300,” Diamantidis told the Times.
Diamantidis told The National Herald that she now receives too many messages daily, "The demand is high and we have helped hundreds of people. We feel happy to help them."
The comments Diamantidis receives are moving. Among them, one Florida woman, wrote, "Do you want to come to Florida? It is impossible for me to make an appointment?"