Finding the COVID-19 vaccine is easier said than done for most people.
With recent eligibility in Minnesota expanded to anyone older than 16, available appointments come and go fast. People may spend hours online refreshing their page trying to find an appointment near them, while others aren’t sure where to look in the first place.
That’s why Brian Finley developed a code and created the Minnesota Vaccine Alert Twitter account (@MNVaccineAlerts) that is automated to tweet out available vaccine appointments and their locations. The web developer who lives in Iowa City, Iowa, said there are similar accounts for Iowa and Illinois and he's expanding to Nebraska and Missouri as well.
“I figured it was something that might be useful for other people,” Finley said. “A lot of people are spending their time sitting around refreshing and so it’s giving them the ability to kind of give them their life back a little bit. They don't have to be as attached to these pages for hours trying to find an appointment. "
The Minnesota alert is "starting to take off too, now that you guys have opened up to everybody,” he said.
The idea for the vaccine finder came when Finley, 35, was trying to schedule shots for himself and his family. He created the code because he was struggling to find appointments near him at the time. The code pulls appointments as soon as they're uploaded on websites such as vaccinespotter.org, Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart, and sends automated tweets from the account giving the location and time of the shot spots.
Hy-Vee:— Minnesota Vaccine Alerts (@MNVaccineAlerts) April 5, 2021
Worthington posted @ 4/5 14:08
In Iowa, the only vaccine appointments were from HyVee and the site only gave appointments within 10 miles of the city that was put in, making it difficult for him to find appointments in nearby towns.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Finley said. “It was a lot of just typing in random cities in Iowa until I found one. I went digging around and figured out a way to query a wider area, wrote the script (code) just for myself. When it found something new, it played a sound so that I could check it out and get myself an appointment for my family.”
Finley said once the script was written, it was relatively simple to make Twitter send out automated alerts.
The Minnesota Vaccine Alert account was created in March and had 6,058 followers as of late last week.
On its profile page, it says the account is running out of Byron, but that's a joke with a friend who lives there, Finley said.
“He kind of joked, ‘hey spin one up from Minnesota,’" he said, "and I kind of called his bluff and started it.”