Website that helped millions get vaccine appointments to shut down

They say all good things must come to an end. 

That’s what’s happening with a website created and run by volunteers from Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook that helped millions of people get the vaccine. 

Since we first covered the story of the creation of the website, the state Department of Health says they became a critical partner, supplying DOH with 90% of their vaccine data. Most important, the website made what once seemed like a hopeless process for some, simple. 

Today, getting your COVID shot is pretty easy, but it wasn’t like this a few months ago. 

"I have 80-year-old in laws and they just couldn’t figure out how to get their vaccines so I took over," says George Hu, a co-founder of the site. 

A former Microsoft employee, Hu has extensive tech experience.  If anyone could find appointment, it’d seem it would be him, but after spending countless hours on hundreds of sites, "I said to myself, there has to be a better way to do this."

And there was. 

"We can program a bot to go to all these different retailers and find out whether it’s available." 

In January, with the help of some techie friends, they designed a bot that would scrape appointment availability data from 1,200 vaccine providers and bring it all to one place:

"It was one of the greatest things that happened to our project," says Arin Jaff. 

A high school junior, Jaff had started his own project around the same time, determined to help the elderly find appointments, and enlisted his crewmates. 

"I needed the most hardworking people I can get and they were the obvious choice," says Jaff. 

He and his teammates formed the vaccine crew, and they hit the sites. 

RELATED: Seattle to close four vaccination sites as city's vaccination rate soars

"Just click click click, refresh refresh refresh to try to get an appointment, and it was very tedious but that was the only way to do it…it was so slow-moving we felt like our impact wasn’t tangible at first," says Jaff.  

But then they found

"It was absolutely a game changer," says Jaff. 

The website was so easy to navigate, the vaccine crew’s request for help dwindled. 

"Us going out of business was a joy because it meant that people were able to do it themselves. It meant that our work was no longer needed, which was the whole point of it," says Jaff.

Now, four months after creating, Hu shares the same sentiment.

"One of our goals was to put ourselves out of business. We said the day that you can walk into your local pharmacy and get an appointment, there won’t be any need for us, and that day has come." 

Hu says it’s somewhat bittersweet, but they’re ending on a high note. 

"We think that we actually helped half the state of Washington get their vaccine," says Hu. 

The website will officially be shut down on Friday, but Hu says their work isn’t over. They’re looking for volunteers to help them with a couple COVID-related creations, included something people can have on their phones to serve as proof of vaccination. 

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