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This Massachusetts software developer is building a better website to find vaccination slots than the state

Still a work in progress, the site by Olivia Adams instantly shows which vaccination locations in Massachusetts have open appointments.

The Reggie Lewis Center COVID-19 vaccination site in Roxbury.
The Reggie Lewis Center COVID-19 vaccination site in Roxbury.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

As a developer for athenahealth, Olivia Adams knows a lot about health care technology. So when she checked out the website where Massachusetts residents sign up for COVID-19 vaccine shots, she saw plenty of room for improvements.

While on maternity leave with a newborn, Adams built her own vaccination-finder website, one that helps solve one of the biggest shortcomings of the state system: finding an available time slot.

The result is MA Covid Vaccine Appointments, where with a simple toggle of a button, anyone can instantly find which key vaccination locations in the state have available appointments at that moment, from the big sites at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the Reggie Lewis athletic center in Roxbury, to more local stops such as the W.E.B. Dubois Regional Middle School in Great Barrington.

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The site has been up for about a week, and on Friday Adams took to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to promote it.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Adams, lead developer of the technical staff at athenahealth, which makes technology tools for the medical industry. “I’ve heard from friends of friends of friends saying thank you so much.”

It’s still a work in progress: lots of vaccination sites are not yet listed on Adams’ page, but she plans to add them when she finds the time.

When Adams’ mother-in-law tried to get shots for herself and her father through the state’s vaccination website, Adams came to the same conclusion that many others had: the process was too confusing.

“There was just a hundred different ways to contact all of these places,” she said. “It was sort of a mess.”

So Adams wrote code for a cloud-based system that visits major vaccination sites every five minutes and automatically obtains the latest information on available doses. This results can be seen at a glance on a simple bare-bones website. There are no fancy maps or gaudy graphics, just basic information about where to get a shot. The site also provides a link for some locations to sign up.

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Building the page took her a couple of weeks, in between baby feedings and diaper changes. And she’s paying for out of her own pocket, though Adams said it’s not much of a burden. She’s buying the necessary computing power from Amazon Web Services, at around $6 a month.

While Adams’ page makes life easier for vaccine seekers, it still doesn’t match the simplicity of offerings in other states, such as West Virginia or Vermont, where citizens can get an appointment no matter where they live, by calling a toll-free number or visiting a state-sponsored website. On Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker rolled out the state’s new call center, formed in response to complaints the website made it hard, especially for seniors, to book appointments.

Adams said Massachusetts should be making similar moves to simplify the signup process. “I honestly think it’d be a good idea for the state to do it,” she said, “because I did it.”




Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.