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Colorado Coder Creates Website That Tracks Vaccine Appointment Openings At Pharmacies

A screenshot of the COVID-19 Vaccine Spotter website.

Vaccine appointment frustration is pretty common these days. And because of challenges with hospital systems, a lot of people are turning to pharmacies to get their COVID-19 vaccine. However, it's still a pain to track down information on every pharmacy's website.

It's an issue Nick Muerdter's frustrated colleague brought to him and other software engineers: can we fix this?

"I just started to think about, is there a way I could sort of automate that process? That labor-intensive process of having to enter all sorts of different zip codes and just sort of searching around the entire area for appointment availability at pharmacies," he said.

Muerdter works with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. He said his coworker shared a news story about a website in New York City that was making it easier for people there to find open time slots for vaccine appointments.

With that in mind, Muerdter volunteered to try and build his own website for Colorado. He worked for about a week and had some coworkers test it before it's initial launch on February 16. He was mainly focused on his own state at first, but vaccinespotter.org hasn't stopped there.

He said Colorado's section of the website "still covers more pharmacies since that's where I started and that sort of has been my focus. But then I sort of realized, like, 'Oh, I have all this data for a bunch of the nationwide chains.'"

So a week later, he rolled his website out nationwide, at least with select national pharmacies like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS. He said you might have to refresh regularly because spots go quickly, but it's better than searching every nearby zip code on every pharmacy website.

And if you can code, you can also help make this website more useful for your own area.

"It's open source, so if other developers have interest in contributing to it, that is possible," he said. "Today (March 2) I got a first contribution from somebody contributing a pharmacy chain in Texas."

To visit the site or to help, check out his website vaccinespotter.org.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

CORRECTION: This story originally misstated that Muerdter also created the Twitter account @COVaxAlerts, but this Twitter account was actually created by David Witten. 

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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