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Siblings book Covid-19 vaccine appointments for those in need

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Ryan and Dylan Levinter can still be found with eyes focused and fingers fixed against their laptops long after their remote classes end. Their goal is simple but requires a few hurdles: find vaccine appointments for the hundreds of people that have asked them to.

Ryan, a seventh grader at Merrick Avenue Middle School, and Dylan, a ninth grader at Sanford H. Calhoun High School, have pledged their support towards www.VaccineHelper.com, a website started by their cousin to help people find vaccine appointments. As of Tuesday, VaccineHelper has booked appointments for more than 3,000 people in the New York metropolitan area.

The website bares no cost to people seeking an appointment. The Levinters’ cousin, Sam Keusch, started the website as a Bar Mitzvah project when he saw how difficult it was for some to find an appointment. Ryan and Dylan began to help when they saw how hard it was for their grandparents to find an appointment.

“We were trying to find vaccine appointments for our grandparents, and we spent hours just trying to get two appointments for them — it was so hard,” Dylan said. “Our cousin realized that, if it was this hard for people like us to get appointments, how are other people, like older people, able to get them?”

People can submit requests for VaccineHelper to book them an appointment. The Levinters sit at their computers and consistently refresh the webpages for vaccine appointments. Once they get a hit, they reserve the spot with the information provided through a Google form, found on the front page of the website.

The Google form asks for contact information and preferred vaccination sites, as well as other specifics. The team behind the website will try to hook people up with appointments at the site they prefer within a month from when the request comes in.

Dylan and Ryan don’t keep count of the appointments they’ve booked — “We really don’t care about the numbers, we care that everyone is staying safe, and everybody can get the vaccines,” Dylan said.

They could only estimate that they’ve booked “a lot,” Dylan said with a laugh. “We know it’s for a good cause, so it’s all worth it,” she added.

“The hardest part is just getting the appointment,” Dylan said, “because once you get it, it’s just a few basic questions that you have to answer, but just sitting at the computer and waiting for it can be hard for some people.”

“There’s a need to do it, and we’re both good with technology, so we’re both able to sit there all day and keep doing it,” Ryan said. “We don’t get tired of it.”

The website is largely a “family affair,” Dylan said, akin to the community service the Levinter family often participates in. They volunteer at Robbie’s Run, an annual fundraiser in Merrick, the Polar Bear Plunge in Long Beach and at the Merrick Library.

“Now that we have a cause to bond over, it really gave us a sense of community in the family,” Dylan said.

To request an appointment, visit www.VaccineHelper.com.