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Harvard College Students Build Website to Provide Americans with Covid Vaccine Information

A Covid-19 vaccination site at Boston's Fenway Park. Two Harvard undergraduates created a website that provides information on how to obtain a vaccine in all 50 states.
A Covid-19 vaccination site at Boston's Fenway Park. Two Harvard undergraduates created a website that provides information on how to obtain a vaccine in all 50 states. By Steve S. Li
By Jennifer L. Powley and Vivian Zhao, Contributing Writers

Two Harvard College students launched a website last month that provides information on states’ Covid-19 vaccine programs in an effort to demystify the process, which has left many Americans confused.

In early February, Catherine H. Yeo ’22-23 and Eric Z. Lin ’22 created the website — COVID Vaccines Info Guide — which helps users find a summary of their state’s vaccine eligibility status, offers resources to book a vaccine appointment, and allows them to subscribe for email updates.

Yeo said she and Lin decided to create the platform to aid the general public.

“Getting a vaccine shouldn’t be about disparity and information access,” she said. “Everyone should have it, so really simply putting all that information in one centralized location was important to us.”

The U.S. approved the first Covid-19 vaccine on December 11 of last year. Since then, each state has crafted their own policies for distribution, making the process of receiving a vaccine confusing to many, per Lin. To understand some states’ policies, Lin said he had to peruse “PDFs of like 50 pages of legislation.”

“We saw these websites as a way to gather information,” Lin said of states’ websites. “But obviously they’re so confusing to users.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak reached the U.S. roughly one year ago, the nation has recorded over 29 million positive cases and has administered over 98.2 million vaccines. President Joe Biden said in a speech Thursday night that he has directed states to ensure all adults are eligible for the vaccine by May 1, with a goal of safe small gatherings by July 4.

To maintain the website’s accuracy, Yeo and Lin, both of whom concentrate in Computer Science at the College, said they wrote code to receive alerts when states update their policies on their websites. They also crowdsource from grassroots sources, for example, by asking users to fill out a form with information on their region’s vaccine program.

The website has already amassed thousands of users, per Lin, who said its reach extends beyond those individuals. One user whose family owns a chain of coffee shops in New York City used the website to book vaccine appointments for all of their employees, Lin said.

Yeo, who has previously contributed to Datamatch, the popular College matchmaking website, said the vaccine information website offered an opportunity for her to create technology that helps people.

“I’m really excited about building tools to democratize access, especially access to information and education,” Yeo said.

The website currently provides information on vaccine programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Guam, and the pair hopes to soon roll out information on international programs.

Until then, it will continue to provide critical public health information to Americans, including Yeo herself. Yeo said she used the website to help her grandmother secure the Covid-19 vaccine after a vaccine site suddenly canceled her appointment, sending her family into a panic.

“I ended up booking her a slot through a resource found on our own site, even though I’m physically very far away from where my grandma is right now,” Yeo said. “From my own story and a lot of other success stories we’ve heard from our users, this can really be a helpful resource.”

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Tags
Computer ScienceTechnologyCoronavirusVaccinations