Like millions of Americans, Wharton MBA for Executives student David D. Newell found lining up COVID-19 vaccine shots for his parents extremely exasperating.
The difference is that Newell, 32, had the technical know-how to make the onerous task easier.
The result is findashot.org, a website that allows consumers to find vaccine appointments at some retailers across the country, including CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens in the Philadelphia area, with one search, rather than having to go from website to website.
“The idea is to aggregate appointment availability, not just inventory availability, which a lot of the projects out there and even the CDC’s partner vaccinefinder.org are focused on,” said Newell, who lives in Dallas. Knowing which stores have doses “is necessary, but not sufficient to get the vaccine,” he said.
Like the CDC website, VaccinatePa.org, which describes itself as a grassroots effort, finds locations that have doses, but still requires consumers to go to specific websites to make an appointment.
Newell’s website takes the extra step of automatically checking retailers’ sites for appointments. If it finds available appointments, it reports back with a link to the page where consumers can make an appointment. “We just drop users onto the appointment page,” said Newell, who described himself as a dabbler in computer programming.
Consumers still must provide information on the retailer’s site that the retailer will use to determine whether the consumer is eligible.
Some major retailers, including the parent company of Acme Markets, have blocked findashot.org from accessing their appointment pages, said Newell, who is on track next month to complete his MBA through the San Francisco campus of the University of Pennsylvania’s business school.
Newell, who works as senior manager of data strategy for consumer retention at McAfee LLC, a California antivirus software company, said findashot.org does not track how many people obtain appointments through the site, largely because he didn’t want to take a chance of violating federal privacy laws.
But he said he knows a couple dozen people in his social circle who have had success using the site, including one person who drove almost six hours from Dallas to Amarillo, Texas, for a vaccination.
Findashot.org has a link to Buy me a coffee to raise money to support the effort. As of Wednesday afternoon 56 people had donated $514, Newell said. The money will permit him to increase the frequency of the appointment checks, he said.
One of the donors, Laurell Haapanen, commented: “Thank you. This was a life saver. Literally.”