Vaccine bots on Twitter share news of available vaccination appointments.
Twitter accounts sharing vaccination appointments have popped up across the US. The accounts are bots run by software engineers who helped Americans find appointments. Bots like TurboVax in New York City have courted thousands of followers. See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Kenneth Hsu’s parents-in-law were desperate to find a vaccine appointment.
In February, both over the age of 70, the two met the requirements to get vaccinated in their home state New Jersey. They added their names to the state’s waiting list. Then silence followed.
“They were getting nowhere,” said Hsu, a 40-year-old software architect from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, a city about 50 miles north of Trenton.
Since he wasn’t yet eligible to receive a vaccine, Hsu said he hadn’t known just how hard it was for those who were to get an appointment.
He found Twitter accounts of real people finding and sharing new appointments and found Facebook groups of people sharing when and how they secured an appointment.
“But after a couple of days getting into it, I just realized that there’s got to be a better way,” he said.
So, he put his skills to work over a few weeks in early February and created a program that scrubbed various county and pharmacy websites to see when new vaccination appointments became available.
In the early days of the vaccine rollout, appointments often disappeared within minutes, he said.
But days after setting up the bot, Hsu had scored his mother and father-in-law appointments to get vaccinated.
“I realized that this is a tool, this is an effective tool that could be used by others as well,” Hsu said. “So I packaged it together and started tweeting that information.”
Hsu told Insider that pharmacies like Rite Aid and CVS said they weren’t interested in working with him, but they didn’t stop him either.