Coronavirus

Boston Children’s Hospital, CDC launch online tool to help find a COVID-19 vaccine near you

The free online service, VaccineFinder, will allow users to look for which local sites have the vaccine stocked.

Sara Sequeria, a RN, carried a tray of needles prepared with doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Lowell Senior Center being staffed largely by Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers on Feb. 25, 2021. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

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Just as soon as appointments open, they seem to be filled again. 

In the chaotic race to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, officials are urging calm while there aren’t enough doses yet for everyone who is now eligible and ready to schedule their first shot. 

To help people in communities across the United States find a COVID-19 vaccine provider that still has stock of the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital and Castlight Health to launch a new tool earlier this week.

The free online service, VaccineFinder, will allow users to look for locations offering vaccinations near where they live and hopefully streamline the process of finding an available appointment. 

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“The idea is to show where COVID-19 vaccine providers [are] that are open to the public — how to contact them, how to book an appointment, and try to show the daily inventory status so people are clear where there’s vaccine and where there isn’t,” John Brownstein, the founder of VaccineFinder and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s told NPR

The virtual tool is operated by epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s who work with clinics, pharmacies, and health departments to collect and report accurate and up-to-date information about local services. 

COVID-19 vaccination providers from around the country will begin reporting on-hand vaccine inventory data every 24 hours, according to the site. 

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“Scattered and siloed systems make it difficult to find timely, accurate information,” Brownstein wrote in a tweet announcing the relaunch on Friday. 

He said the tool will also show users how to contact vaccination sites and direct them to each location’s appointment portals. 

The initial rollout, he added, doesn’t address the limited vaccine supply issue. 

Brownstein shared how VaccineFinder was actually originally created during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in a partnership with Google. 

“We have been running ever since for a wide range of vaccines (shingles, HPV, travel vaccines etc),” he wrote.

While in most states the initial launch was limited to providers that are receiving vaccines from the federal government, those living in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee can search their ZIP codes and discover an interactive map of every vaccine provider, including hospitals, clinics, and public health sites nearby. 

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Brownstein told NPR that in the coming days and weeks, every state will be added to the mix. 

As vaccines become more widely available, providers may choose to make their locations visible — or not — on the VaccineFinder site, making it easier for the public to identify which locations still have stock. 

“This is one baby step in the complex numbers of steps people have to take in order to get [a] vaccine,” Brownstein told the station. “But we hope at least it will help reduce some of the noise and confusion that is out there.”

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