Advertisement

Vaccine appointments can feel elusive. This Iowa Twitter account helps.

  • 100
    Shares

@IAVaccineAlerts was created by Brian Finley of Iowa City and amassed more than 23,000 followers in its first month.

Nearly all Iowans are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, and starting April 5, literally all adult Iowans will be, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday.

But determining if you’re eligible and locating vaccine providers near you aren’t the biggest hurdles to actually getting the jab. Scheduling an appointment is.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and her administration chose to scrap plans for a central online scheduling tool for the state in February, just two weeks after announcing their intensions to build this “one-stop shop.” Instead, the state has launched an information site, vaccinate.iowa.gov, with links to vaccine providers but no scheduling service, as well as a 211 call center to assist Iowans 65 and older with scheduling an appointment.

In the absence of a scheduling resource for all Iowans who qualify for COVID-19 vaccination, one Iowa City web developer got creative.

The @IAVaccineAlerts Twitter account, created by University of Iowa Information Technology Services employee Brian Finley, is perhaps the most efficient vaccine scheduling aid in Iowa. Finley automated the account to tweet whenever a retail vaccine site (specifically, Hy-Vee, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies across the state) has available appointments. Each tweet includes the name of the pharmacy, where it’s located and the date and time in which the appointment(s) opened up.

The openings can be fleeting, but each tweet is another opportunity for an Iowan to nab a spot — a scrappy sort of process familiar to those who have tried to score tickets online to a popular concert or musical.

For example, a vaccine-eligible Coralville resident following @IAVaccineAlerts — and who clicked the bell button in order to get a notification whenever the account tweets — might be alerted to available appointments at a Hy-Vee pharmacy in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Davenport or another city she deems close enough to travel to. She need only visit Hy-Vee’s vaccine page, type in the city or zip code from the tweet, fill out the online informed consent form (a process that takes around two to five minutes, and requires you to have your health insurance and/or Medicare card on hand) and, if there are still timeslots open when she’s done, claim one.

Finley told the Gazette that @IAVaccineAlerts “felt like the obvious solution” to many of the problems Iowans face when it comes to scheduling their vaccination.

“I’m just trying to get people vaccinated,” he said. “I’m trying to make it so we don’t have to worry about taking my kid to the park. It’s never going back to normal-normal, but to return to a point where your day-to-day life can resume in a way that is fulfilling and unencumbered by a thing that’s killed almost half a million people.”

While utilizing @IAVaccineAlerts to find appointments is straightforward and easy for many, it depends on one’s access to and ability to use the internet — a barrier for many of the Iowans most in need of protection from COVID-19, including seniors.

As the account’s following grew, Finley said a doctor in rural western Iowa contacted him and said seniors in his community are starting to have trouble getting appointments at their local Hy-Vee, as tech-savvy folks outside the area fill spots. It reinforced a fear Finley had about his program, he told the Gazette, but he acknowledged that there’s a benefit to as many people as possible getting vaccinated. The fewer appointments go unclaimed, the closer Iowa gets to herd immunity.

Still, Finley regularly encourages @IAVaccineAlerts followers to use the resource to help family, friends and neighbors in need schedule appointments and arrange transportation.

SIGN UP TODAY

Subscribe for daily news updates from Little Village

SUBSCRIBE

After Iowa Vaccine Alerts showed just how much such a tool like this was needed, Finley launched Twitter vaccine alert accounts for Minnesota and Illinois.

“If we can take a couple hours off of everybody’s search, with the alerts that lets people step away from the computer and into their home life and their family life, it makes the search for a vaccine a little less of an impact for them,” Finley told KWQC-TV.


  • 100
    Shares
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

stanleymuseum.uiowa.edu/events

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

Don’t let other people’s opinions win.

Vote for your favorite people, places and events in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area! In a time when local businesses need our support more than ever, your vote will send a little love to the places that make our community special. And don’t forget to tell us why—the best comments will be published in our December Best of the CRANDIC 2021 issue! Voting ends September 30.

Read the Best of the CRANDIC issue, on stands now

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.