covid-19 vaccine

How a New Website Could Get You Access to a COVID-19 Vaccine Quicker

The new COVID vaccine online waitlist system was created to keep precious temperature-regulated doses from going to waste, alerting those looking for a vaccine when they have a shot of getting one

NBC Universal, Inc.

A new website may just be the shot in the arm America's growing vaccination effort needs to get doses to more people.

It's called Dr. B — a COVID vaccine online waitlist system created to keep precious temperature-regulated doses from going to waste. The creator of the site, Cyrus Massoumi, called the coronavirus vaccine "the most scarce resource on Earth," and wanted to find a way to eliminate any potential wasted doses.

He knows a thing or two about using apps to improve healthcare: He founded Zocdoc, the medical appointment system that has helped millions find doctors and book appointments.

Massoumi told NBC New York that each day, upwards of 20 to 30 percent of people become no-shows or cancel on their vaccine appointments, generally because they were able to get it somewhere else. He believes that Dr. B could be a game-changing stop gap for the vaccine rollout system.

"We thought there needed to be a universal standby list where any provider that has excess doses" could offer them up to those looking for one, Massoumi said.

How does it work? Users enter their basic information, including their ZIP code. It will cross reference the user's eligibility with info in their area, so those with highest priority still have access to the vaccine first. But those who don't yet qualify for the vaccine will have a chance as well.

On their end, vaccination locations will upload their shot availability. When it is the user's turn, they will get a text. Sometimes it will give a few hours heads up, other times it will be less.

"If there is 30 minutes left on the vaccine, it is literally first-come first-serve. And we message more people than doses," Massoumi said.

The service got tested locally in Queens already, as well as in Arkansas. The first two shots that were offered up went to health care workers. Eventually Dr. B will offer up appointments nationwide.

There are already 1.3 million people on the waitlist.

A New York State spokesperson stressed the strict guidelines for using extra doses, adding that "to the extent Dr. B furthers that objective, we thank them for their work."

"This is one possible way to get the vaccine. But we still want (users) to go for vaccine appointments as they would anywhere else," said Massoumi. "They should think of this literally as a plan B."

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