How a Twitter account is helping Canadians find vaccination appointments

It’s been a challenge for some Canadians to find vaccination appointments through the myriad of different portals and the various eligibility criteria across the country.

But a team of web-savvy Canadians is making it a little easier for others to find open vaccination appointments they qualify for.

Whenever Vaccine Hunters Canada learns of an open vaccination appointment slot, they’ll share it over Twitter, along with eligibility criteria, to their 32,700 followers. They also post the information to Discord, an instant messaging and voice chat platform where they have 2,000 members.

Toronto-based software developer Josh Kalpin told CTVNews.ca that the Vaccine Hunters Canada project was inspired by a U.S. website called VaccineHunter.org, which helps Americans find leftover vaccines at the end of the day before they expire.

“We believe that the best way to convince Canadians and to help Canadians get vaccinated, is by other Canadians that are helping each other, and it’s our duty as Canadians to help those that are most at risk and most vulnerable,” said Kalpin in a Zoom interview on Thursday.

The vaccine hunters pay close attention to social media updates from public health units and hospitals, but most of their information they get is crowdsourced. All five members who update the Vaccine Hunters Canada accounts are doing so unpaid, while juggling full-time jobs.

“Most of our information actually comes from people on Twitter messaging us or tagging us in their tweets or from our community on Discord where people post tips,” said Kalpin.

Many Canadians have had to make numerous cold calls or navigate between all the different appointment portals run by pharmacies, hospitals, local health units, pop-up clinics and provincial and territorial governments. Each of these vaccination sites have differing eligibility criteria in terms of age, postal code, health conditions and beyond. For instance, a 55-year-old living in Toronto can book through the provincial booking system, but a 55-year-old living in Ottawa will have to book through a pharmacy.

The vaccine rollout has been particularly confusing for many in Ontario, where the province opened up vaccine eligibility for Ontarians living in hotspot locations aged 18 and over. However, 18-plus vaccinations are only available at select pop-up clinics rather than through the provincial booking system.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the rollout at a news conference on Tuesday.

“For the folks that find it confusing, I have to tell you, 2.8 million people didn’t find it confusing [and] 3.3 million people that we had vaccinated didn’t find it confusing. So, if I am doing the math right, we’re well over six million people that didn’t find it confusing,” said Ford.

“It’s very, very simple.”

Kalpin says that even if the vaccine rollout was perfect, he expects his organization to have still played a part in helping Canadians.

“Even if this rollout… was absolutely perfect, I still think we would exist. And I think that there would be a lot of value that we would be bringing to the community,” Kalpin said.

Kalpin says he and his team plan to keep up their work until it gets to a point where anyone can get vaccinated.

“[When] vaccines are to the point where it’s not a race against time to get an appointment and anyone can get one and everyone’s been vaccinated, then we’ll be done,” said Kalpin.

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