Kitchener-Waterloo·Audio

Vaccine appointments can be hard to find. Waterloo Vaccine Tracker wants to help

If you’re still on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, Waterloo Vaccine Tracker might be able to help. The social media tool posts about upcoming vaccine appointments in the region.

Online tracker posts upcoming vaccine appointments in the region

Lilian Toma is pursuing a master's degree in pharmacy at the University of Waterloo and is behind the Waterloo Vaccine Tracker. (Submitted by Lilian Toma)

If you're still on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, Waterloo Vaccine Tracker might be able to help.  

The tracker, which launched last week, is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where it posts information about upcoming vaccine appointments through the Region of Waterloo and local pharmacies. 

"The whole purpose of this project is just to make people of this region more aware of the appointments that are available," said Lilian Toma, 23, the University of Waterloo graduate student who's behind the tracker.

"It can be a little bit difficult to find at the moment, especially with availability changing so much and so frequently."  

Waterloo Vaccine Tracker was inspired by Vaccine Hunters Canada, Toma said. The volunteer group was formed this spring and has helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians find COVID-19 vaccines through its Twitter account and other online pages.

No unused appointments

When Toma realized there was no local version of the Vaccine Hunter's account, she decided to make one.

She hopes the tracker will help people save time and find appointments quickly. While there are many places to get vaccinated in the region, Toma said she wasn't aware of a single social media account dedicated to pulling together local vaccine information in one place. 

"I wouldn't want any appointments to go unused just because people don't know about them," said Toma, who's studying for her master's in pharmacy.

A person receives a vaccine at a clinic in Nova Scotia. In Waterloo region officials are urging people to get their vaccine to quell the spread of the delta variant. (Haley Ryan/CBC)

The region's own booking system, which requires people to click through different calendar dates to find an appointment, has also been criticized for being time-consuming and difficult to use.

During a media briefing last week, the head of the region's vaccine distribution task force acknowledged the booking system "has its flaws," in part because of frequent changes to the vaccine roll-out behind the scenes. 

"It has its challenges at times, but we've proven that it works," said Waterloo Region Police Deputy Shirley Hilton.

Hilton said she's grateful to anyone willing to help other people navigate the system. 

"We really want to lessen the frustration, and if there are community members willing to take that on to assist, I say thank you," said Hilton.

As for Toma, she started the tracker all by herself, but said she hopes to recruit other volunteers to help.

She's started to hear from people in the region who've successfully booked appointments because of the tracker — and she hopes to receive more of those messages in the days ahead.

"If it can help anyone, it'll be worth it," she said.

Lilian Toma is a graduate student in pharmacy at the University of Waterloo and is behind the Waterloo Vaccine Tracker social media accounts. The account pulls together local information about available vaccine appointments and pharmacies with doses in stock. 8:11

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