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Text app helps find COVID-19 vaccination sites

Last Updated May 4, 2021 at 1:20 pm PDT

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Summary

Need help finding a vaccine? A new text message based service can help you find clinics closest to you

Taking inspiration from a similar service in the U.S., Zain Manji and his friend built the platform in only a few hours

The simple app is easily accessible for those who might have trouble finding clinics online

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As B.C. prepares to ramp up vaccinations with a boost of doses coming our way in May, a new tool can help you find a site to get the jab near you.

The concept is simple: Text your postal code to 1-833-356-1683 and within seconds, you are sent the three nearest locations.

Last week, Zain Manji’s friend heard about an app in the U.S. that did the same thing and he wondered how long it would take for them to build a Canadian version

“We then figured out that it would probably take around one to two hours for us to build and so we just went ahead and started,” he said.

He’s not sure why municipal or provincial governments hadn’t thought of this sooner.

“It’s honestly a very simple app,” he said. “You just text it with your postal code … The code takes the postal code and finds the closest vaccination sites and just sends it back to you. It’s literally less than 100 lines of code.”

Right now, the service is only available in B.C. and Ontario, but there are plans to expand to other provinces.

“For us, it was just maybe something that we could create and put out in the world … If it helps one person then that’s great, right? It wasn’t too hard for us to make it — wasn’t really much effort, at least at the beginning — and so we just decided to do it … trying to help us get back to a world where we can live normally again,” Manji said.

He says he’s received a lot of messagesthanks of support and gratitude.

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Manji believes the provincial government has done a good job of providing information on its website, and other groups seem to have things covered on other platforms.

“The Vaccine Hunters group that was assembled maybe about a few weeks ago is really really helpful as well, especially for knowing like real-time appointment slots,” he noted, adding his text service is a simpler route for those who aren’t as digitally savvy.

“It’s as easy as just texting your six-character postal code,” he said.

Moving forward, Manji hopes they can add more features in the text messages, including the type of vaccine offered at each location and real-time data.

“It’s just kind of tough right now because that data is not really accessible, and so once that data becomes accessible to us, our phone number can then pick it up ” he explained.

-With files from Eden Debebe