Joe Bruno ’14 uses power of Twitter to inform public about vaccination appointments

The Charlotte journalist is making extensive efforts to ensure vaccination appointments don’t go unfilled and doses don’t go unused.

He has been called “Charlotte’s Leading Vaccine Evangelist” and “the ultimate vaccine angel.” Others tout the “Joe Bruno effect” when pharmacies looking to fill vaccination appointments are able to pair people with doses.

Joe Bruno ’14

“Thank you again for removing barriers and making this a little easier,” wrote one person on Twitter.

Those thanks go to Joe Bruno ’14, who is putting his Twitter following and news-gathering skills to work to help connect people with COVID-19 vaccination appointments. With nearly 34,000 followers on Twitter (@JoeBrunoWSOC9), Bruno can quickly spread word about appointments available at a pharmacy in Salisbury, a new vaccination location in Gaston County or extra doses available at a Charlotte clinic.

“I’m just happy to give people a shot at trying to get those shots,” said Bruno, an award-winning journalist with ABC affiliate WSOC in Charlotte. “The whole reason I’m doing this is so we can get back to normal sooner.”

Bruno’s effort started about a month ago when he received some information about open vaccine appointments and tweeted it out. That simple tweet prompted multiple responses from members of a grateful public, some of whom wanted to receive the vaccine but were having difficulty navigating the appointment scheduling process.

“That was when it clicked with me how challenging a process this is right now,” Bruno said. “It can be so hard to find open appointments.”

Bruno has since added collecting and distributing vaccination appointment information to his role as a government and breaking news reporter with WSOC. Nights and weekends, even when he’s off the clock, he’s letting people know where they can get a shot. His initial focus was on Mecklenburg County, but he has since expanded his coverage area to include about 20 counties.

His station compiles his tweets about appointments on its website so viewers have a resource they can use to find shots.

A sampling of tweets thanking Bruno for his work spreading information about open vaccination appointments

Bruno said he has become a resource for smaller local pharmacies who may not have the marketing resources to promote appointments. Recently, he received a call from a pharmacy that had nine doses that would expire within an hour and wanted help getting the word out. “That’s a little stressful,” Bruno said.

So what are some tips for finding open vaccination appointments? Here are a few from Bruno:

  • CVS and Walgreens, two national pharmacies that are providing vaccinations at their locations, have been uploading a lot of new appointment slots on weekend mornings, so that’s a good time to check.
  • Check with your local pharmacy. They may not have the resources to advertise, but many are holding vaccination clinics.
  • If you are able to secure an “extra” dose at the end of the day from a clinic that had unfilled appointments, make sure you are guaranteed to have an appointment for your second dose.
  • Don’t cancel a scheduled appointment for a second dose unless you have a replacement appointment lined up. It can be very difficult to schedule second-dose appointments.
  • Be willing to travel. Bruno said that demand is outpacing supply right now in many areas, but that’s not the case in some areas of the state.