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CHICAGO (WLS) -- For many people, the path to getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a long and winding road.

But Benjamin Kagan of Chicago Vaccine Angels is taking the legwork out of it for those who don't have the time, resources, or computer know-how to locate a dose.

The 14-year old tracks down where and when vaccines are available.

and makes appointments for people on a waiting list.

"It's a great feeling being able to help people. I personally helped 115 people," said Kagan.

Kagan first discovered he had a knack for navigating the vaccine system when he helped his grandparents who live in Florida.

On winter break at the time, he spent hours remotely navigating that state's various websites and finally got them appointments.

"I just kept trying," said Kagan. "We had four computers open and we were trying on all of them and I just got lucky."

Then, Kagan heard about a group called Vaccine Hunters.

He volunteered with the Chicago chapter at first, offering tips on how to locate the vaccine.

"I started getting all these private messages saying, Benjamin we need help, Benjamin, I can't book it myself, Benjamin, help me please," he said.

Kagan made a spreadsheet of an ever growing list of people needing vaccines and places where doses are available.

He said he found them by scouring websites for pharmacies and grocery stores, especially late at night.

That database helped him start his own group, Chicago Vaccine Angels.

"He has a huge heart, said his mother Ali Kagan. "He is a kid who's always had a huge heart, has a lot of time and love for his grandparents and I think this translates out because he realizes how hard it is, particularly for seniors."

It was also hard for Ashley Novoa who's work in the community takes her in and out of shelters.

She secured the vaccine with Kagan's help.

"We have these people who are stepping up and then a teenager at that, who could be outside doing things with his friends. So it's amazing," said Novoa.

"It's just an incredibly gratifying feeling to be able to say I helped this person. I may have saved their life," said Kagan.

Kagan said he would like to see just one website that lists all the places in the area that offer vaccines and times they're available.

In the meantime, he said he's happy to do what he can to help.

News Source: abc7chicago.com

Tags: covid 19 vaccine health fitness coronavirus chicago coronavirus covid 19 vaccine seniors teenager teen volunteerism covid 19 pandemic covid 19 his grandparents are available vaccines the vaccine

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Parents of 105 separated children have been located, with efforts continuing for hundreds of others

Protest against the previous administration's family separation policy in 2019.

Lawyers and advocates working to reunite families ripped apart at the southern border by the previous administration say they’ve found the parents of an additional 105 children since last month, NBC News reports. However, efforts to locate the parents of other 505 children remain ongoing, with lawyers and advocates saying they’ve been unable to locate parents for 322 children because they were likely deported.

NBC News reports that the updated information comes from the latest filing in litigation that in the summer of 2018 forced the previous administration to stop separating families. This is the first court filing under President Joe Biden’s administration, which this month announced a federal task force to undo the previous administration’s humanitarian disaster. "By the grace of God and goodwill of the neighbors, we'll reunite these children and reestablish our reputation as being a haven for people in need," Biden said while signing the order.

That filing “nods to the task force and its efforts,” CNN reported. “Defendants believe that the work of the Task Force will resolve many—if not all—outstanding issues in this litigation, and Defendants look forward to working with Plaintiffs with that goal in mind," the filing said according to CNN. It wasn’t that long ago—just this past December—that we found out the federal government under the previous administration had been withholding additional contact information that could prove vital in helping reunite kids and parents.

That NBC News report said the data was turned over only after advocates had been pleading for months for any additional information that could prove vital in piecing families back together. "Everyone's been asking whether the Trump administration has been helping to find these families,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Lee Gelernt said in the report. “Not only have they not been helping, but they have been withholding this data forever.”

ACLU has been among the advocacy groups working to reunite children with their parents. The Biden administration earlier this month reportedly selected Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission, as the task force’s leader. "If selected, Michelle would be a fantastic choice. She would bring deep expertise on the issues and the perfect mixture of passion and common sense," Gelernt told NBC News.

But advocates continue to have major concerns, because the Biden administration has not yet announced a decision on whether reunited families can reunite in the U.S., or will be eligible for protections. Like The Washington Post reported earlier this month, while Judge Dana Sabraw in 2018 ordered the previous administration to reunite families, “many reunited parents were not given any legal status, making them immediately deportable and raising the prospect of re-separation.” 

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“What we need now is an immediate commitment to specific remedies, including reunification in the U.S., permanent legal status, and restitution for all of the 5,500-plus families separated by the Trump administration,” Gelernt told the Post. “Anything short of that will be extremely troubling given that the U.S. government engaged in deliberate child abuse.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General last month released the final version of a draft report obtained by NBC News in October that pointed to top DOJ officials, including former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, as “a driving force” in the previous administration’s inhumane policy. The report said Sessions in fact instructed U.S. attorneys that “we need to take away children.” But the inspector general said he refused to be interviewed for report.

“The Inspector General's investigation makes it clearer than ever: Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and the Trump administration willfully disregarded the lives of innocent children in their xenophobic crusade to criminalize migrant families,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “The trauma of thousands of migrant kids is on their hands. Everyone involved in this cruel and ill-conceived policy must be held accountable. I am committed to working with my colleagues and the incoming Biden administration to repair the damage at our southern border and restore humanity to our immigration policy."

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