Olivia Adams, a local software developer on maternity leave, made national news for building a website to improve on the process for Massachusetts residents to get COVID-19 vaccine shots. Now, Adams is getting some friendly competition from a group of Boston-area volunteers who’ve built another alternative to the official government site.
The new site, VaccinateMA.com, contains recent information on vaccine availability at about 125 locations throughout the state. That makes it more comprehensive than Adams’s macovidvaccines.com site, which tracks a much smaller number of locations.
“We think it might be a little bit easier to use than the current state website,” said the site’s founder, Zane Stiles, an associate in the private equity department at Bain Capital. “More importantly, we’re doing our best to pull availability information up front.”
At the site run by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, people often have to fill out a lengthy form before finding out that a particular location has run out of vaccine. At VaccinateMA, a user can instantly see if a vaccination facility has doses on hand.
Stiles borrowed the idea for his site from VaccinateCA, a similar website set up by volunteers in California. At VaccinateCA, the volunteers make regular phone calls to every vaccination site to find out the availability of vaccine shots. They post the results on the VaccinateCA webpage, sorted by county.
Stiles’ version uses information from person-to-person phone calls, but it also runs software that automatically collects the most recent appointment data from many Massachusetts vaccination sites. All this information is loaded into an Excel spreadsheet that users can easily search by county or ZIP code.
In many instances, the search results include specific details about vaccine availability. For instance, a search on Monday found no shots available at Brockton High School, but dozens of injections available Tuesday through Thursday at the Walgreens store on River Street in Mattapan. Since vaccine inventory changes rapidly, users should quickly sign up when doses are available.
Stiles said that he quietly launched his site a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to word of mouth, the project is attracting a growing roster of volunteers. “People found vaccinations on the site,” Stiles said, “and started e-mailing me, asking to help out.”
Some of these volunteers work the phones, getting the latest vaccine availability data. In addition, Stiles has begun working with Code for Boston, a nonprofit that provides technology assistance for community projects. “They’re going to make the site prettier,” Stiles said.
Meanwhile, Olivia Adams’s site suffered some technical problems on Monday, which made it difficult to access. Adams said she thinks the problem is due to a bug in the software, not overwhelming public demand.
Still, Adams’s efforts have gotten the attention of state government. She said on Twitter that she’s been contacted by state officials and is planning to meet with them this week.