Online groups push for better COVID-19 vaccine information in Ontario
WINDSOR, ONT. -- As COVID-19 vaccines roll out to the 40-plus age group, a number of online platforms are trying to provide Ontario residents with essential information about where to book their shot.
A new tool, developed locally by a a Data Analyst at the University of Windsor Leddy Library, is showing which pharmacies across the province are offering the vaccine.
The tool was originally launched by UWindsor Leddy Library geospatial data analyst Carina Luo to showcase participating pharmacies in Windsor-Essex. But with the vaccine now going to pharmacies province-wide, she wanted to expand her reach.
“There is no visualization tool which can visualize all the pharmacies nearby,” Luo said.
Luo plugged in government data to list 1,407 different participating pharmacies.
She says she’s doing this because the government isn’t.
“There is it seems a gap between vaccine policy and actual vaccine roll-out,” Luo says. “The government website you cannot find out information about how many doses available at the pharmacy.”
This week, another online group — Vaccine Hunters Canada — shared Luo’s app to the growing masses of people looking for specific information.
“The where and the when is very important to us,” said Sabrina Craig, a team member at Vaccine Hunters Canada. “What we like to do is inform eligible people where when they can get their vaccine and that’s the cornerstone of what we do at vaccinehunters.ca.“
Since its inception a month ago — VaxHuntersCanada has attracted 125,000 Twitter followers. The group also has a presence on Facebook, sharing relevant information on where people can find vaccines with real-time information.
“We really hope that we can remove some of the boundaries or obstacles that people may have in getting vaccinated,” Craig said.
And it’s working. Local pharmacists say demand for the vaccine is out-stripping supply, with waitlists already hundreds of people deep in the 40-plus category.
Luo says 13,000 people have used her app so far but hopes the government will make vaccine availability information more transparent to help with the ongoing rollout.
“They should do a better job in my opinion,” said Luo. “I feel like this is the job of the government to do this, however, they cannot, so there are so many volunteers that want to help.”