Nick Muerdter has built a website showing open appointments for the Covid-19 vaccine across the United States. Some call it a lifeline

Erin Walton and her family

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Some have sent emails with helpful articles and have thought about a solution.

“It seemed like a lot of people were just spending a lot of time on these drugstore websites,” said Muerdter, a 34-year-old software engineer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. “And those were particularly frustrating just because it was, you know, you go to the website, you enter a zip code, you select a store and then no, no, no appointment. And then you have to try another store or try a different zip code. “

In other words, the types of repetitive tasks that Muerdter knew computers can do better – and faster. And that gave him an idea.

In mid-February, Muerdter began creating a tool in his spare time that analyzed the availability of appointments for vaccines at local pharmacies and gathered all this information in one place – allowing users to view appointments. you available nearby simply by plugging in their zip code and how far they were ready to drive.

Colleagues who had been searching for weeks found appointments for eligible family members within days, he said, thanks to the new website.
“It really tried to automate what you would have to do if you had to go to websites and enter every zip code or… check every store in your area,” he said.

And soon, what started as a small side project turned into an “all-consumer” job, outside of his full-time job. Muerdter’s website now covers all 50 US states, plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

He calls it: Covid-19 Vaccine Spotter.

“A huge lifeline”

Although Muerdter says his lists are not exhaustive and still recommends that Americans check other places as well – like county and state websites – dozens of grateful users have posted success stories on social media. .

Since launching almost two months ago, the website has been viewed by millions of people. It was shared by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who thanked Muerdter and urged residents to check out the site if they were looking for appointments, and Arkansas State Senator Greg Leding, who also recommended the tool. Muerdter’s creation was also mentioned on New Jersey’s new Covid-19 vaccine appointment finder website.
And then there’s the flood of thank you messages pouring into Muerdter Twitter profile.
Erin Walton and her family
Among them is a comment left by Erin Walton, who says she was so grateful for the tool’s help, she just had to reach out.

Walton, who lives in Illinois, began frantically seeking Covid-19 vaccine appointments for his parents who live in Iowa, just after the state expanded its vaccine eligibility guidelines for include them. Her parents are both in their 60s, she says, with pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe Covid-19.

“I was just looking through every website I could, their county, state, looking at the CDC website and nothing was happening,” she said.

As the United States rushes to vaccinate the country, the distribution of J & amp; s vaccines  J will slow down 84% next weekAs the United States rushes to vaccinate the country, the distribution of J & amp; s vaccines  J will slow down 84% next week

Until she heard about Vaccine Spotter and “I immediately found them a date.”

“I started sharing the gospel about this with everyone I know,” said Walton, helping a friend’s mother make a date in Arizona, two good friends in Ohio and finally to find a date for herself and her husband when they became eligible in their own state. .

“It was a huge lifeline,” she said.

“The simple comfort of knowing that my parents will be okay is enormous, after last year,” Walton later added, speaking through tears on the phone.

About 27% of all U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and although all adults nationwide are expected to become eligible for a vaccine by April 19, finding an appointment is still not, for some, a simple task.

Kira-Lynn Ferderber, a key worker at a rape crisis center in Florida, also struggled to find a date last month after becoming eligible for the vaccine.

Kira-Lynn FerderberKira-Lynn Ferderber

Without a car and unable to travel far, Ferderber says the search – back and forth between multiple websites and listings – has become overwhelming.

Until someone on Twitter posted to Vaccine Spotter. And Ferderber found a date two days later.

“I take the bus or I take Ubers a lot and in Florida a lot of people don’t wear masks, even in businesses I can’t avoid going in… and I also work with the public,” Ferderber said. “So it was such a relief to have my first vaccine. “

A voluntary effort

Keeping the website running – and improving it – means a lot of “weekends and weekends” for Muerdter.

Sometimes it’s about adjusting the tool to changes on pharmacy websites or coming up with new mechanisms to navigate sites that block access to their data. Other times it adds new features (like appointment filtering by vaccine type) or expand to more pharmacies.
Analysis: Vaccinations against Covid-19 are increasing.  But familiar mistakes could lead to more miseryAnalysis: Vaccinations against Covid-19 are increasing.  But familiar mistakes could lead to more misery

“The feedback has been really amazing and positive and a lot of people seem to have found it useful,” he said. “It’s just kind of what makes me happy. “

And knowing he’s helping is reward enough, says Muerdter.

But inundated with donation offers, Muerdter created an option to help his efforts, the money he says goes to cover the costs of the website. All that remains, he donates to charities like UNICEF and Direct Relief.

“I’m not trying to make money with it,” he says. “I’m just happy to help people. “

How long will it keep the website running?

“My main goal is really to keep the pace for as long as it helps,” he said. “In my mind, the sooner it isn’t useful the better because it means we’re all vaccinated or… there are enough dates there that it’s not that kind of game.” and huge problem trying to find them. ”

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