Earlier this month, Olivia Adams, a Massachusetts-based developer at athenahealth, noticed the confusion swirling around the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in her state.
While on maternity leave caring for her newborn son – along with her toddler – Adams built a website over the course of about three weeks as a centralized location for eligible individuals to find available vaccine appointments in Massachusetts.
“The response has been greater than I could have imagined. There’s clearly such a need for a tool like this, and so, once people got wind of my website, it just flew around different social media networks,” Adams told Healthcare IT News.
The site, macovidvaccines.com, scrapes data from other websites every five minutes and tells you what places are currently advertising available appointments for COVID vaccines. It notes that it is the user’s responsibility to verify they are eligible for a vaccine.
“I’ve gotten so many emails from Massachusetts residents who are so thankful for the website and my efforts. Just last Friday, I opened up my code for collaboration and I have probably 20 web developers working on this in their spare time with me now,” said Adams.
“I’m so grateful,” she added.
In lieu of a cohesive federal strategy, states have used a variety of tools to help get the vaccines into the arms of individuals. Centralized systems have seen mixed results.
In New Jersey, for example, state officials reportedly blamed Microsoft for weeks of glitches, including double-booked appointments and lost registrations. Groups in other states have directly asked their governments to set up a centralized website.
On Thursday, the AARP in Rhode Island called for a single system to manage vaccinations and appointments, citing the “chaos” faced by vulnerable populations.
Adams says Massachusetts “doesn’t seem too interested in collaborating with me.”
She said that the state had been working on its own website similar to hers, vaxfindermass.gov, which went live this past Friday. That site is powered by Project Beacon, itself a project of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, along with investment companies F-Prime Capital and GV, formerly Google Ventures. (Some news outlets noted the similarities between the state government’s site and Adams’.)
“A couple members of the Coronavirus Command Center met with me to talk about our mutual struggles getting vaccine availability data from certain websites, but that’s as far as our discussion went,” said Adams.
Her website links to vaxfindermass.gov, as well to vaccinatema.com, an additional volunteer-run website.
Adams says her work at athenahealth “definitely primed” her to create this kind of website. “I knew how to start, what tools to use, and what to watch out for,” she said.
“That said, software for a doctor’s office is much different than this!” she added. “My website is a relatively simple solution (or partial solution) to a familiar problem – too many places to look for things. My goal was simply to put all the necessary information in one place.”
In the short term, Adams hopes to add all the state vaccination locations and data to the website to make it fully functional within the next two weeks. Then, she says, she’d love to team up with other states or municipalities by making tools like macovidvaccines.com or something else entirely.
“Governor Pritzker of Illinois also reached out to me, and we had a conversation about his vaccine rollout. And I was able to give him some advice. I’d love to collaborate more with him, but I’m not sure what his plans are,” she said.