Vaccine Hunters Canada says goodbye for a second time

TORONTO — Last year, Vaccine Hunters Canada launched with a mission to help as many Canadians as possible find COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Now, with more than 88 per cent of Canadians aged five and up vaccinated with at least one dose, the volunteer-run group says they’re finally wrapping up their operations.

“Exactly one year to the day that Vaccine Hunters Canada started operations, we are humbled to be quietly closing our doors,” the group said in a statement posted to their website on Saturday. “What started as one person looking for a COVID-19 vaccine for their loved ones blossomed into a 100-person operation of caring volunteers helping people across Canada.”

Vaccine Hunters Canada started operations in March 2021, when COVID-19 vaccine availability was scarce across Canada and finding an open vaccine appointment was a challenge. The group would post regular updates on social media about when a vaccine clinic was opening up or had doses available.

Andrew Young, the group’s founder, said the wide availability of vaccines was the main factor that led to the decision to wind down.

“People no longer need to intensely search for vaccine, compared to how it was like in April to June 2021,” he said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Saturday.

“The team felt that it was time to hang up our hats and move on.”

At its peak, the group had over 400,000 Twitter followers, although their follower count declined as more and more Canadians became vaccinated. The project was also entirely volunteer-run and never accepted any donations, instead encouraging Canadians to give to the Frontline Fund — a joint fundraising effort among several hospital foundations across Canada to support healthcare workers.

“Without a doubt, the team — I’m most proud of them,” Young said. “They’ve dedicated so much time and effort volunteering their time to something greater than each of us, and yet, there’s no way I can thank them enough.”

It’s not the first time that the Vaccine Hunters Canada announced that they’d be winding down. The group had initially wrapped up its day-to-day operations last August but came out of hiatus in November as Canada was starting to roll out booster shots and vaccines for kids aged five to 11. Because of this Young said he saw “a real surge in demand” for his group’s services.

“That’s one of the main reasons why we came back into operation or ramped up our operations again,” Young explained.

Even as their operations wind down, Young says the online resources on the Vaccine Hunters Canada will still be available, such as their “Vaccine DIY” directory of vaccine info in every region across Canada.

“Thank you for all your support over the last year. The heart behind VHC is helping your community and finding ways to help others. We hope that everyone can find ways to work with their neighbours, communities and families to make this world a better place ,” the group’s statement said.

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