Homemade Apps Help Crowdsource COVID Vaccines

February 17, 2021 – By the end of July, there should be enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate every adult in America. But as of Tuesday, just over 71.5 million doses had been distributed, and more than 55 million of those injections had already been given. With over 200 million adults in the United States, dating seems to require a combination of persistence, technological knowledge, and luck.

Enter a handful of local technical superheroes. They step in to build websites, apps, and bots that find dates for you.

Crowdsourcing meets technology

Olivia Adams is a software developer in Arlington, MA. When her family members struggled to find appointments, she spent part of her maternity leave building a one-stop-shop site for frustrated vaccine hunters. Its automated system extracts appointment information from a jumble of other sites – official government sites, supermarkets, etc. – to inform users of what is open at the moment.

“The state just had a list of all possible locations with no idea of ​​availability, and it seemed like each location had its own website and a unique process for making an appointment,” she said by E-mail. “No wonder people have problems!”

As word spreads around the site, Adams watches the statistics increase. “I average about 100 visits per minute during the day,” she says. “And I get an email every few hours from someone saying they’ve finally been able to make an appointment.”

In Georgia, similar issues motivated Ben Warlick: he struggled to register his parents and in-laws. A lawyer by profession, Warlick had previously built a website that scoured government websites for information on permits and other local issues. “I realized I could use the technology I had worked with before to collect data, and configure it to check sites for open appointments every few minutes and let me know,” he says. . The next day, he received an alert saying that Fulton County, where his stepmother lives, had vaccines available. She made a date and Warlick realized that her idea could help others.

He implemented a text-based interface called Georgia Vax App. To use it, Georgia residents can send word VAX to 844-554-4024 and enter their county and priority phase. They will receive an alert when they qualify for open appointments, so they won’t have to sort through all of the possibilities themselves. Although it does not yet have information for each county, to date more than 40,000 users have registered.

The response has been so overwhelming that Warlick plans to charge additional registrations to cover its costs: “There is a charge for every text you send,” he says. “When I started it wasn’t significant, but tens of thousands become significant.” Your home county is free, but if you want information on neighboring counties, supermarkets, and pharmacies, you’ll pay $ 5 each.

Similar crowdsourcing sites are in operation in California, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington State, and elsewhere. New York has two options.

Another type of site seeks to avoid wasted doses because the vaccine expires quickly. Registration for Dr B., created by the founder of the ZocDoc medical appointment site, puts you on a waiting list classified by priority group and location. If you receive an alert, you have 15 minutes to confirm that you can send it to the provider within 2 hours.

Are you not reaching the vulnerable?

As heartwarming as all these efforts are, critics say they still don’t really help those who need it most. To access most of the sites, you will need a smartphone or a computer, which are generally not as prevalent among older people and in low-income communities.

“We need call centers. We need people to go door-to-door in the community, registering people as if there is a census, ”said Jeffrey Klausner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. ‘University of Southern California. Kaiser’s Health News. “You have to structure the system somewhat to allow and prioritize access to the most disadvantaged – to reverse structural racism or factors that exclude certain groups.”

The Biden administration is working to resolve this issue. Beginning this week, the Health Resources and Services Administration and CDC are sending a limited number of vaccines directly to HRSA-funded health centers. The focus will be on centers specializing in caring for disproportionately affected communities, such as homeless people, residents of social housing and migrant agricultural workers.

As problems continue to be resolved in the vaccine distribution system, individuals and grassroots organizations will find ways to offer their support. “I am sure that the state [of Massachusetts] has enough things to do other than try to retroactively fix this registration issue, ”Adams says. “But I’m glad that I and others across the country have had the time to try to remedy the situation.

WebMD Health News


The Washington Post: “Biden says the United States will have enough vaccines for 300 million people by the end of July.”

CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States”, “Progressive Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines”.

Olivia Adams, Arlington, MA.

Ben Warlick, Atlanta.

Kaiser Health news: “Tech companies are mobilizing to schedule appointments for vaccines, but often fail.”

Administration of Health Resources and Services: “Ensuring Equity in the Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine”.

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