Yesterday we reported that residents 50 years old and over are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and on April 15, eligibility opens up for everyone 16 years and older. Soon nearly half the state’s residents will be trying to get appointments to get the vaccine.
After struggling to help his grandmother get vaccinated, Buzz reader and Cheviot Hills resident Andrew Friedman, a recent computer science and political science grad from University of Chicago, decided there must be a way to use technology to make it easier to find a vaccine appointment. Over the course of a week, Friedman created a bot (a software program that operates on the Internet and performs a repetitive task) to scrape all the public vaccine site data and display available appointments that can be searched by zip code. The result is FindMyVaxLA.com.
Friedman really wanted to help make sure everyone had access to the information, so there’s no filtering for eligibility, though it’s listed at the top of the page ( and soon everyone will be eligible so it won’t matter). Just type in your zip code and the site will display all the available appointments. You take it from there, click on the link and make your appointment.
“I really wanted to follow the public health officials’ guidelines and try to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” explained Friedman. “The site uses Google translate so you can find information in dozens of languages. We have a Twitter bot that tweets out when new appointments become available, so you don’t have to keep searching for hours at a time. New appointments are always being added, and we are always making improvements to the site.”
Friedman told the Buzz he’s had 60,000 users and more than 140,000 views since the site was posted in February. He’s also reached out to local non-profits and community groups with offers to help directly if people are having trouble navigating the vaccine appointment sites from the City and County of Los Angeles. His bot only scrapes data for publicly available sites, so users don’t have to worry they might be cheating by using technology. The site is free. Friedman doesn’t want donations. Instead, he suggests donating to the California Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund and the Stop Asian Hate efforts of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University. He’s also willing to share his bot with developers who might want to do it for their own county. He’s even available for tech support!
“I feel like everyone is stepping up to provide assistance, and just thought this was something I could do to help,” said Friedman. “People are feeling like the is near and I’m happy to do what I can do end the pandemic.”