After her mother-in-law had difficulty signing up for a Covid-19 vaccine, a Massachusetts woman created a website to make it easier for her — and she made it easier for everyone.
Olivia Adams built a website that pulls in vaccination appointments from across the state, including government sites as well as ones operated by private businesses. She called it macovidvaccines.com.
The 28-year-old software developer from Arlington, Massachusetts, says she spent three weeks and about 40 hours building the website — and she did it while on maternity leave caring for her 2-month-old son, she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Monday.
“I thought I’d take a look and I was surprised at how decentralized everything was and how there are a thousand different websites to go to,” Adams said. “I thought, ‘How can I put my software skills to use to make this better in my free time?'”
Free time usually happened when her newborn is sleeping, Adams said. She said her 2-year-old son is at day care, so she’s lucky not to be caring for both during the day.
The inspiration came after listening to her mother-in-law, who had a tough time signing up for an appointment. Her mother-in-law is a dental hygienist who qualified for the first phase of vaccinations, she said.
“She had a little trouble figuring out where to go and how to get signed up,” Adams said. “She was able to do it, but it took a little while and then she had the same problem when she was able to sign her father up when he became eligible at the beginning of our phase two.”
Her family isn’t alone in their vaccine sign-up struggles. People across the country, from senior citizens to others in the early vaccine phases, have faced with hours waiting on the phone and logging online to see no spots available.
Adams examined Massachusetts’ online vaccine portal and realized she could make it better for everyone. She said she is used to making complicated software related to health care needs in her job as a lead member of the technical staff at Athenahealth, a health care technology company.
But, she’s never created a website quite like this.
“This was my first time making a complicated website myself,” she said. “The hardest part about it is that every website that has availability information I have to kind of tell my computer how to read that website like a human. That’s where all the man hours went in.”
The vaccine appointments are available at a number of sites, from those run by the state to those administered at grocery stores and pharmacies. Parsing all that information for each provider is where it got a bit time consuming, she said.
Adams has a script that runs every five minutes across about 20 different vaccine sites, she wrote in an email.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was asked about Adams’ vaccine website at a press conference on Friday. “Send us her name, we’ll talk to her,” Baker said Friday.
Adams said she reached out to the state to talk about her website before the press conference, but she had not gotten a response after emailing them. On Monday, she tweeted that she received an email from the state’s Coronavirus Command Center and will try to meet with them this week.
CNN reached out to the state for comment but has not heard back.
Adams said she never expected her website to take off in popularity like this. She sent the link around to friends and family and it spread from there.
For the people who wonder if Adams could work her code magic for other states needing vaccination sign-up help, Adams said she realizes there is a big need.
“On Friday I would have told you, absolutely not,” she said. “There’s no way I have the time to do that, but now the support has just been overwhelming and there’s clearly such a need. I already have people from other states emailing me asking if this can be done where they’re at. I’d love to explore that and we’ll just see how it goes.”
Adams encourages others who may have an idea to help to just try it, she wrote via email.
“I encourage anyone who thinks they have a half-baked idea to go full force and they’ll be surprised how well it turns out,” she wrote. “I built it for everyone but I didn’t think everyone would use it.”