British Columbia

Service to find vaccine locations via texting launches in B.C. and Ontario

Software engineers in Toronto have launched a texting tool that helps users in B.C. and Ontario find the vaccination site that is closest to their postal code.

Service responds with name, address, phone number and website of vaccine sites

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health in Richmond in April. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Finding the nearest vaccine site is now only a text away for eligible adults in B.C. and Ontario.

Software engineers in Toronto have launched a texting tool that helps users find a vaccination site closest to their postal code.

"All you need to do is text a phone number with your postal code and it replies back to you immediately with two to three closest vaccination sites near you," Zain Manji, one of the tool's creators told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

The service responds with the location name, address, phone number and website of provincially approved vaccination sites including pharmacies and clinics.

Manji, the co-founder of Lazer Technologies, says he and his co-creator came up with the idea last Friday after seeing a tweet describing a similar texting tool in the U.S.

"We just kind of asked ourselves whether this was available in Canada and we saw that it wasn't," he said."We realized it would be quick for us. It would take us around one to two hours to do so. And we just did it."

Three hours later the texting tool launched in Ontario. The co-creators shared it on Twitter and it quickly went viral.

"We had so many people texting in one to two hours after we launched it that the telephone carriers thought it was spam and they actually blocked the phone number."

Since calling the carrier to unlock the phone number on Friday, Manji says more than 85,000 Ontarians have already texted to find vaccine locations.

He and his co-creator launched the tool in British Columbia on Monday. They've received positive feedback from users who have been able to book vaccine appointments thanks to the texting service.

"We love to see it because it means it's working for some people and it means we're probably a little bit closer to getting back to a normal life," Manji said.

He says in B.C., information on vaccine locations is currently only available for 45 out of the 192 postal codes in the province.

"So I would say B.C. is probably a little bit behind on their rollout compared to Ontario," he said. "But the service does work for B.C. so anyone in B.C. can try to text it and try to find a location."

British Columbians can text 1-833-356-1683 with their postal code and will receive an instant reply with nearby vaccination sites.

The tool is funded entirely by Lazer Technologies, although he hopes to eventually get discounts or credits from the phone provider.