COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A University of Maryland computer science major has created a website and social media alert system to help Marylanders try and secure vaccine appointments. Senior Mathew Steininger launched the website MDVax.info to automatically monitor the online booking portals for major hospitals, retail pharmacies and state-run vaccine sites, and compiled all the info in a one-stop shop.
When appointments become available, Steininger's system automatically sends out alerts on the Twitter feed @MDVaxAlerts. Appointments are always limited, so it's important for people hunting for vaccinations to be able act quickly when they are available, Steininger said.
"I look at these news articles that keep saying how people have to refresh the page 100 times in a day and they still are unable to find appointments," Steininger said. "These are people's lives and they shouldn't have to wait online all day."
Steininger uses a technique called "web scraping" to aggregate information from a bewildering array of online portals that offer vaccination appointments. His website displays when appointments become available, which are then tweeted to followers.
As of Tuesday, the Twitter feed had recorded nearly 450,000 engagements. And users are starting to report some success.
"Thanks for doing this!! We need more of this! -signed, cancer patient who just got qualified from work, today," commented one user on the Twitter feed.
As a senior in high school, Steininger invented a similar system to alert followers to when special edition clothing or shoes such as Air Jordans would be made available by retailers or manufacturers. The system became a successful online business that Steininger said earned him some income before college.
Steininger says he's been contacted by state officials who wanted more information on how his alert system works.