By Charlize Alcaraz
Two Ryerson engineering students have created an online dashboard to make booking vaccine appointments on the web an easier process for Canadians.
Find My Vax was developed by Reza Khonsari, a masters candidate for civil engineering and James Heaney, who’s in his final year of mechanical engineering. They both experienced personal difficulties with booking vaccines online for themselves and their families.
“I was trying to book vaccine appointments for my parents and I realized that vaccine appointments were going so fast,” said Khonsari. “I had to check [online] at least a couple times a day…And not only that, I had to go through multiple different websites, pharmacies and clinics.”
“This became a very complicated process and I thought to myself, ‘What if there was an easier way to do this?’”
Ontarians have spoken out about their horror stories while booking vaccine appointments online, describing the hunt for accurate information and the process as “confusing and tiresome.”
Find My Vax shows you 20 available vaccination spots near your postal code. According to Heaney, the postal code’s interaction with the website works in two ways.
People living in remote areas such as reserves and rural communities will only be able to find the 20 nearest clinics, some of which may “be a bit of a drive.” For those living in busier areas, the website will allow you to select how far you want to drive. “So you put in your postal code and you could say, ‘I only want to go 10 kilometres or 15 minutes,’ if you can only get somewhere by bus,” said Heaney.
According to its website, Find My Vax is updated with around 5,000 supported locations every minute and notifies people of new vaccine appointments through email.
The website currently supports users from Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan and receives about 6,000 to 8,000 weekly visitors, according to Heaney.
It only took Khonsari and Heaney about two weeks to develop Find My Vax, taking their experience from developing previous projects such as RUMine, a dating app exclusively for Ryerson students, and its “community update” that lets users find friends with similar interests, as opposed to romantic matches.
Post-pandemic plans: Repurposing Find My Vax
Since Find My Vax was made specifically for finding COVID-19 vaccination appointments, Khonsari and Heaney said there might be potential for repurposing the website to suit post-pandemic needs.
“After everybody’s vaccinated, it won’t be needed anymore and that’s a good thing,” said Heaney. “The beauty of coding is that a lot of the things that you made can be reused.”
For example, Khonsari said the same platform can be used for finding regular flu shot appointments. “As we go through the vaccinations, I think people will be more interested to get the flu vaccine as well and that might [cause] some shortages,” he said.
“We’ll see what problems come by and see what we can do to fix it…to help the community.”