With complaints and frustration mounting in Massachusetts over what some have found a cumbersome and confusing vaccine sign-up process, an Arlington woman took it upon herself to make it easier.
Olivia Adams, a software developer and mom to two young kids, told us she decided to create her own website after hearing from her mother-in-law about how difficult it was to find available vaccinations and sign up for an appointment using Massachusetts' online portal.
"While the state's website has a centralized location, there's like a different website for each place, and they all operate slightly differently," Adams said. "And there's no good way to say like, 'OK, what places have availability in the next week or how many slots are available? Am I wasting my time calling every CVS around me to see what the heck is going on?'"
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The developer, while on maternity leave from her job at athenahealth, created macovidvaccines.com, where vaccine sites and their available time slots are all located on one page.
Adams said she's been working during her 2-month-old baby's naptime and after both her kids go to bed for the past three weeks. She estimates she has spent about 40 hours or so to get the site up and running.
"It's been a learning curve," she said. "I've never made my own real website before that is this complicated so it's been a great learning experience for sure."
Adams acknowledges that the launch of Massachusetts' vaccine hotline announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday is a great step, but she doesn't think it goes far enough.
"I think so many people want to have a website that they can look at," she said. "We have the technology. The resources just haven’t been put in yet so I really hope this gets some traction and we’re able to move somewhere with it."
We asked Baker at Friday's news conference on the call center if he would consider implementing Adams' idea on the state's website.
"Send us her name, we'll talk to her," Baker responded.
"I think the feedback we get from outside folks is incredibly helpful," he added. "And if I was to sit here, I could go through a long list of adjustments, changes, modifications, reforms, and new initiatives that have been launched ever since this began that involve feedback from the outside."
Two Massachusetts state representatives, Rep. Mike Connolly and Rep. Jay Livingstone, also took note of Adams' initiative. They sent a joint letter on Saturday to Baker asking him to back her work and embed the design she created into the state's official vaccine scheduling site.
Adams "is the vaccine hero we have all been waiting for!!" Conmolly said in a tweet, tagging her in the post.
Adams said she will happily take a meeting with state officials if they reach out.
"I'm 100% open," she said. "Let's get ourselves out of this mess as fast as possible."
Residents and state lawmakers alike have complained that Massachusetts' vaccination website is difficult to navigate. Adams says the problem goes all the way up to the top.
"The federal government has kind of pushed the states to work on this and the states have kind of told others ... we have our own sites, Fenway, Gillette, big ones like that, that they've been working on and those do have that centralized place where you can look, but everywhere else that has the vaccines is like, here's your supply, figure it out," she said. "And that’s kind of where the problem is trickling down, this decentralization. It's really hard for our residents to figure out where to go. It's definitely an organizational issue but we can make it better. ... So I do hope we’re able to get more resources on it and that I can help out wherever I can."
While she has had a lot of fun creating her vaccination sign-up website, Adams says it's kind of crazy how many people have reached out to her to tell her this is exactly what they wanted the state to provide.
"It's kind of crazy that, after I started publicizing this, that there's been such an outreach and so many people have said, 'This is what I've been looking for, this is what I needed,'" she said. "And the state didn’t realize this and wasn’t able to do this in a more centralized way with resources that weren’t me working at night during maternity leave."
With her maternity leave soon coming to an end, Adams said that, if she has enough time to continue working on the site, her dream is eventually that people would be able to sign up and receive emails when there are more vaccine appointments available in their area.