By Brian Indre
Falls Church native Eric Lin and one of his classmates at Harvard University found the state websites with necessary Covid-19 vaccine information to be confusing and not very user-friendly — so they decided to do something about it.
“We were very saddened by news reports of people selling fake vaccines on Craigslist, as well as a lot of disinformation and distrust online which added to the confusion on exactly who can get a vaccine and when,” said Lin.
A 20-year-old who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, he was shocked when he and classmate Catherine Yeo spent hours searching to find if some of their family members were eligible to be vaccinated.
“Catherine’s grandmother has been trying to get a vaccine for months now, and it was very [disorienting] for her to find the correct information,” Lin explained. “When Catherine and I tried to help her, we found ourselves spending an afternoon trying to find where to sign her up for an appointment.”
“This is where the inspiration came from,” Lin continued. “We want to help guide people that want to be vaccinated to know when they can get the vaccine and how.”
Lin said that with so much clutter and friction found in the process of navigating state websites, they decided to put their computer science skills to work and design their own website called COVID Vaccines Info Guide, which would act as a one-stop-shop that provides comprehensive information for all 50 states.
This simple website quickly distills all the complex information and includes updates about Covid vaccines into one place, according to Lin. He added that he and Yeo list a few bullet points for every single state along with the policies on who is eligible and where to get the vaccines.
The data is combined from state and federal government websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state health sites.
The bullet points for each state include important information, such as who is currently eligible for a vaccine, the current doses administered by the state, an estimated percentage of those vaccinated in each state and a link to the state’s government official website and page for vaccine information.
States are updated at least once every week, per Lin. For instance, the number of doses administered, percentage of people fully vaccinated, and appointment links are updated twice per week. However, for state policies, Lin continued, he and Yeo rely on a combination of their automated computer program and manual curation, which means certain policies may fall through the cracks.
Those who frequent the site can sign up to receive updates to their email inbox as well.
Lin said that they wanted to make it easier to search other states, so that someone could easily help a family member who may live far away, is elderly or lacks computer access, so that they can get the information they need during the time where people can’t visit with them.
“Other state and federal websites tend to be hard to read and consist of reports that are very legislative with guidelines that are sometimes 50-pages long,” Lin said. “We present information in more of a grassroots campaign style for the entire US that is more regularly updated than other news sites where people might get their information.”
Since the duo is committed to providing information for the entire United States and not just a local area, they’ve found it challenging for them to gather and review information to update for every state.
As a result, both Yeo and Lin have started partnering with grassroots organizations to help speed up the process with their data collection; but as of now it’s just the two of them entering the data manually.
“We are working hard to stay up to date with the latest information as more vaccines are becoming available, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is beginning to move states into new vaccination stages,” said Lin.
Lin said that he hopes that the website demystifies some of the Covid-19 vaccine policy guidelines, and can be useful in pointing people in the right direction to getting as many people vaccinated as possible.