COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A Central Ohio based volunteer group is harnessing brain power from around the state to help book COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
A recently launched platform called VaccinateOH compiles information about providers and each of their vaccine supplies. It allows users to search for the nearest available appointments at healthcare systems, public health departments and pharmacies. Its central portal is the website VaccinateOH.org, but even those without internet access can use the service. If you call or text 614-972-1114 with your zip code, the service will respond with the three providers with availability closest to your location.
“There’s a lot that we have that not everyone has,” VaccineOH co-creator Brad Griffith explained about the volunteers’ skills. “What can we do to build better equity across the community?”
VaccinateOH was created by Can’t Stop Columbus, leveraging the same crowdsourcing techniques the group used to create initiatives like curbside concerts, voter registration outreach and a myriad of community service projects. Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 1,000 volunteers have created more than 60 projects.
Griffith, a software developer and owner of Buckeye Interactive said, “It’s people who have specific skill sets and expertise, who want to do some good in the community.”
“What is more important is the passion that these folks bring,” added Ryan Sullivan, the project manager for VaccinateOH.
Dr. Ayaz Hyder, a professor at Ohio State’s College of Public Health, recognized the group’s potential to mitigate a disjointed scheduling process for the COVID-19 vaccine. He saw many people struggling to navigate multiple provider websites and find available vaccine appointments.
“This is an Ohio-wide effort,” Dr. Hyder said. “So it’s not even ‘Can’t Stop Columbus’ any more. It’s like ‘Can’t Stop Ohio.’”
Dr. Hyder also noted the public health system is already overburdened by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and simply doesn’t have the time, resources and diverse experts necessary to build a robust vaccine appointment database like VaccinateOH.
“Public health is just not nimble enough,” he said. “Public health departments are doing so much already. They’re just so tired.”
The database is continually updated by a combination of automated data collection and volunteers manually entering information. Dozens of volunteers have helped with the planning, execution and maintenance of the project and VaccinateOH is actively recruiting more help.
The current team is juggling the project with their full time jobs and said they’re driven by a passion to expand vaccine access and solve the health crisis as soon as possible.
“Even if it helps one person get a vaccine and get fully vaccinated and do all the things that you do once you’re fully vaccinated, it’s worth it. It’s all worth it. We’ve all had enough of this pandemic,” Dr. Hyder said.
Visit VaccinateOH.org to search for available appointments near you. You can also directly call or text your zip code to 614-972-1114 to find your closest providers.