As Washington residents struggle to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations, a volunteer team of software engineers has created an online solution. COVIDWA.COM provides a list of sites providing vaccinations and notes which ones have space available.
The team launched the site yesterday, after starting the effort last week. It currently serves all of King County, which includes Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond, and is adding additional counties as quickly as possible. COVIDWA.COM should cover all of Washington by next Tuesday.
“We all have been admiring the workers that have been able to make a difference on the frontlines. And I can’t cure COVID, but I can help people get the information they need to protect themselves,” said Maureen O’Hara, a project manager for the effort and retired Microsoft employee.
On Wednesday the team had 20 members, and that number was at 30 on Thursday. The volunteers include many current and former Microsoft employees and engineers affiliated with the University of Washington’s Bothell campus.
COVIDWA.COM is partnering with Washington’s Department of Health, O’Hara said. The agency is providing the effort with lists of the vaccine providers, which continues increasing. Before the launch of COVIDWA.COM, the state had a website that listed the locations administering the vaccine, but there was no indication of which spots had vaccines available.
“The state has given us its blessing and told us to run with it,” O’Hara said.
GeekWire has reached out to the Department of Health for a comment and will update the story with additional information.
COVIDWA.COM works by scraping information from the website of every provider to share where appointments are available. There are about 150-to-200 providers statewide and scheduling availability is not always clear on their sites.
To make the project work, the volunteers pooled the cloud storage that they individually had available and they’re buying the needed software on their own. The site is ready to handle the anticipated volume of users.
The initiative started with George Hu, a former Microsoft employee and part-time college instructor. He struggled to find a vaccination appointment for his elderly in-laws and thought to create a digital solution. Hu reached out to one of his former students, MIT software engineering student Darren Lim, who was eager to help. Hu also made an ask for volunteers through social media.
At the same time, software engineer Olga Illarionova started a family hackathon to create a COVID scheduling site. Illarionova and her husband Dmitry came across Hu’s effort and the groups joined up.
Dan Morris, a Microsoft engineer, signed on and is helping lead the project. Kirsten Andrews, who formerly worked at Microsoft, Skype and others, is a project and communications manager for COVIDWA.COM.
“Many of us have been wondering how we can do more than just social distance and stay safe,” Morris said in a statement. “This initiative provided an opportunity for tech workers give their skills, helping us get through this trying time.”
There are other, similar efforts around the country and O’Hara said their team is collaborating and sharing ideas with them.
Washington state is delivering an average more than 26,000 doses a day, and more than 10% of the population has received an initial dose.
As of Feb. 6, more than 940,000 doses of vaccine have been given across the state, which is nearly 80% of the 1,195,207 doses that have been delivered to providers and long-term care programs.
The state has for the first time started receiving vaccine allocation forecasts from federal officials. The projections will make it easier for organizations to plan staffing levels and other resources for administering the vaccines. Here are the anticipated allotments from coming weeks:
- Week of Feb. 14: 206,125 total doses (113,800 first doses, 92,325 second doses)
- Week of Feb. 21: 240,620 total doses (123,160 first doses, 117,460 second doses)
- Week of Feb. 28: 242,360 total doses (128,560 first doses, 113,800 second doses)
The volumes are short of reaching the state’s goal of 45,000 doses per day. The highest allotment for the last week of February comes out to less than 35,000 daily doses.
A recent study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center projected potential infection rates and COVID deaths for King County over the coming year. Reaching higher levels of vaccination was key to minimizing a so-called fourth wave of infections.
People interested in volunteering with the COVIDWA.COM project can contact the program through their website.
Originally published at https://www.geekwire.com/2021/eligible-covid-19-vaccine-seattle-techies-help-create-site-shows-open-appointments/ on .