The nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout is picking up speed, but misinformation and confusion remain over when individuals are eligible for vaccinations and procedures to set up appointments.
To demystify the myriad state government policies and help people get vaccinated faster, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences students Eric Lin, A.B./S.M. ’22, and Catherine Yeo, A.B. ’23, both computer science concentrators, launched a website to provide a one-stop-shop for the most up-to-date vaccination information from each U.S. state.
Q. What was the inspiration for the COVID Vaccines Info Guide?
Catherine: When the U.S. began to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, we wanted to know who was eligible and how to make appointments for our own family members. After hours of searching, we still didn’t understand the policies for our respective states. There are tons of conflicting sources, state websites are often confusing, and worst of all, scam vaccination providers spread misinformation and distrust. I’m 19, Eric’s 20—if we found this process confusing, how were our grandparents and other elderly people going to get their vaccines?
Q. Where does the information on the site come from and how do you ensure that it is accurate?
Eric: Our data is aggregated from state and federal government websites (such as the CDC and individual state health sites) and is updated as soon as possible. We’ve included the provided source for each state on our website if anyone is interested in reading more from the original state source. We are committed to only posting verified and accurate data on our site.
Q. What were some of the biggest challenges of launching the site?
Eric: Designing the resource to be the most effective for people not just in our home states but across the country. Marketing and getting the word out was also challenging, because government and news sites get a lot more publicity, even though they often don’t provide clear nor up to date information.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges involved in keeping the info up to date?
Eric: Since we’re committed to providing information for the entire United States and not just a local area, it’s been challenging for us to gather and review information to update for every state. We’ve been partnering with other grassroots organizations to try to speed up the process in data collection, but in the end it’s still a manual and tedious process.
Q. Why is this an important project?
Catherine: This is really important in how it not only helps people in the immediate region find current and accurate information on vaccinations, but it also gives everyone easy access to vaccine information across the country—something anyone with elderly parents/grandparents living far away will find helpful, including ourselves. When my grandma’s COVID vaccine appointment was cancelled days before it was scheduled, my family panicked. I booked her a slot through a resource found on our website even though I was living a far distance away from where she was. We really want to democratize access to vaccine information and appointment sites and reduce misinformation for as many people as we can.
Q. Do you have plans to expand the site in the future?
Eric: We’re working hard to keep up to date with the latest information as the introduction of Johnson & Johnson and more vaccines means that states are beginning to move into new vaccination stages. We also want to provide more information about local appointment sites.
Catherine: There have been requests to add information for countries outside of the US. In the next few months, a lot more people will be eligible to get vaccinated. It is more important than ever for people to be aware and stay updated on their state’s policies and vaccination resources.
|Visit covidvaccinesinfo.com for the latest information on when and how to get a COVID-19 vaccine in each state, and sign up for e-mail alerts when new information from your state is posted.|
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