COLORADO, USA — A 20-year-old junior studying computer science at Stanford University created a Twitter account that tracks where vaccine appointments are available in Colorado.
David Witten created @COVaxAlerts after learning his relatives in Colorado were having trouble finding vaccine appointments.
Witten initially created a website that lists vaccine appointments, but later realized there was a similar one created by Nick Muerdter.
"It was honestly much better than mine, so I quickly pivoted to a Twitter account, and really quickly the response is pretty overwhelmingly positive," said Witten.
Witten said Muerdter made his code available to the public, so he was able to use it in addition to the code he created himself. In just 72 hours, Witten said he's already received comments from people who were able to sign up for the vaccine using his Twitter bot.
"People are telling me how they spent hours searching vaccine websites, and finally by turning notifications on this account they were able to find vaccines super quickly."
Here's an example of what the automatic tweets look like:
Witten also answered 9NEWS' questions about how his Twitter bot works.
(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)
9NEWS: How does data sourcing work for this Twitter account?
Witten: So pretty much what happens is every minute my code checks these websites and acts like a human. Initially, I created the code to do this and then this other website that I was talking about, the Colorado, one also had code to do this and he put it open to the public. It’s partially mine, and partially I’m using his help.
What vaccine providers does your code search through?
Witten: Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Pharmaca, Sam's Club, Safeway and King Soopers.
What information is provided with every tweet?
Witten: It’s the name of the store, the address and the URL. Instead of people having to search for information, it literally comes to them. They turn on notifications, and they find out immediately.
How do you plan to improve the Twitter bot?
Witten: Maybe include different clinics. I think just over time, more and more places will start having vaccinations, and it’ll just become easier and easier to get, and so expanding it to different stores would be great.
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