By May 1, the United States aims to have Covid-19 vaccines widely available to all U.S. adults. But that doesn’t mean signing up for the vaccine hasn’t been a fiasco.
The onset of 2021 saw mass confusion and frustration as the most vulnerable struggled with poorly designed websites, broken links and endless series of portals to click through. Each state had to organize its own eligibility groups, phases or tiers, and slap together its own distribution plan. Disjointed sign up systems and buggy websites fueled confusion as people scrambled to secure a shot.
That’s why tech conassiours like Joanna Stern, from the Wall Street Journal, and Geoffrey A. Fowler, from The Washington Post, reported numerous tools to make it easier for people to sign up for the vaccine. The best of which are organized here, into three general categories: Facebook groups, maps and alerts.
With eligibility groups pouring in, it’s a good idea to set a plan in motion as to how you’ll vamp-up your strategy to sign up for the vaccine in your area.
Read on for the top tips and tricks.
Facebook groups are handy for connecting with your community to learn general vaccine information. Group members also post when local pharmacies release a surge of new appointments. Keep in mind you’ll be sifting through posts and comments to find the information you want. Be on high alert for vaccine misinformation – Facebook is ridden with it.
Maps, such as Google and Apple Maps, provide users with geographical views of nearby locations that could be administering shots. But the results are not real-time, and they don’t tell you if slots are actually available.
Alerts from tools like Visualping and Dr. B notify you the moment slots become available. Visualping lets you monitor vaccine-related pages and be alerted when they change, such as for slot openings or eligibility group updates. Dr. B, depending on your eligibility, can alert you of leftover shots in your area.
Below are the pros and cons of how these tech tools make it easier for you and your loved ones to get vaccinated.
“Facebook groups are your best friend”, Joanna Stern, from the Wall Street Journal, has said.
Out of the fog of mass confusion, many have turned to local Facebook groups to try and sign up for a vaccine appointment.
Group members come together and post as soon as they see a surge of slots become available at the local pharmacy. Moderators in the New Jersey group, for example, post screenshots of CVS openings daily, at around 5 and 6 a.m.
You’ll also find questions about general vaccine information, accompanied with a series of answers from local folks in the comment thread. Facebook groups are a thrumming vessel for helpful Covid-19 vaccine information from the community.
Once you find a Facebook group for your area, simply go to the Discussion tab and refer to the “Recent Posts” to see the latest activity.
There are several things to keep in mind when using Facebook groups.
For one, not every city or state has a group.
And, for some, particularly the groups where access to vaccines is more scarce – like Florida, Oregon and Philadelphia – the feed is extremely active. You may have to sift through a slew of questions and answers until you find the post or comment that’s most relevant for you and your situation.
Geoffrey A. Fowler, from The Washington Post, says, while Facebook is useful, it’s also “a hotbed of vaccine misinformation.” Pages discouraging the shots remain easy to stumble upon. When researching vaccine information on Facebook, be sure to check the facts with trusted news and medical organizations.
For viewing local vaccination sites, tech tools which map features are incredibly useful. Big tech giants Apple and Google have released geographical map views of vaccine sites in your neighbourhood.
In Apple Maps, which is accessible through an iPhone or iPad, you can search suggestions for vaccine locations and see the results plotted out on a map. Attached to each location is its address, hours, phone number and a link to its website.
Apple sources the information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s VaccineFinder, which is operated by Boston Children’s Hospital.
Google Maps is very similar. Enter a query for “Covid vaccines” and you’ll get a list of potential locations administering shots in your neighbourhood. Like Apple Maps, each location comes with an info card of their address, hours and even eligibility information.
Google sources its vaccine locations through working with “government agencies and retail pharmacies” to provide the data.
The maps are extremely useful tech tools in making it easier to spot local sites administering shots.
But they don’t tell you if doses are actually available at a given site. To do that, you have to click the location’s website from the map, then manually check the appropriate pages for open slots in its vaccine schedule.
To be monitor vaccine slots and be alerted when they change, more than 80,000 Americans, across the U.S., use Visualping to sign up for appointments before they vanish. There’s more on this below.
The maps are also not not real-time. The only real-time data you’ll find here is current traffic conditions.
Snagging open vaccine appointments has often been the trickiest part of the vaccination process. Tech tools like Visualping and Dr. B address these challenges by sending you real-time alerts of available shots.
It’s an online tool that sends you alerts when local vaccine slots become available. You can also monitor updates to your area’s eligibility groups and new vaccine locations.
But you can really monitor and receive alerts of anything – including updates to your area’s eligibility groups and new vaccine locations. It’s up to you which pages you monitor.
But you can really monitor and receive alerts for a variety of purposes, including monitoring Facebook pages to receiving in stock alerts for your favourite product. It’s up to you which pages you monitor.
Depending on the frequency you choose, the alerts are real-time. Visualping offers a free plan, as well as several paid plans for higher frequency monitoring.
When new slots become available, such as at your local pharmacy, Visualping sends you an email with a screenshot of the highlighted changes, and a link to navigate straight to the monitored page to take action.
Dr. B is another vaccine tool that sends you alerts. It works with local vaccine providers to alert you of extra leftover doses. All you do is sign up on the website, providing your phone number and a few other pieces of information. Depending on your eligibility, Dr. B send you a text alert of an extra dose.
Visualping and Dr. B connect anybody to these alerts – regardless of whether you’re on Facebook, or if you have Apple products. For Visualping, you just need an email and access to a mobile or desktop. For Dr. B, you need a phone number and access to a mobile and/or desktop.
If you receive an alert from Visualping or Dr. B, act fast – vaccine slots can vanish within seconds.
Visualping or Dr. B don’t geographical map views of local vaccination sites.
While Facebook groups and maps help people learn about vaccines and where they may be able to get vaccinated, they’re not the only gadgets to leverage in your mission to sign up for the vaccine.
Perhaps it’s not so much a matter of comparing the tools, but using them together, in tandem, to fashion together the optimal vaccination strategy. Maps can provide you with a pool of nearby vaccine sites, and, if slots are full, Visualping can tell you exactly when to sign up. Use Facebook groups and Dr. B on the side to increase your chances of signing up for the vaccine as soon as possible.