Booking with a bot: P.E.I. Vax Bot is helping Islanders get COVID-19 vaccinations
'If we can help make that more efficient, we figured, why not?'
Some Islanders have been booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments through a bot on Twitter, but few seem to know who is behind the mysterious service.
Island couple Jonathan and Ashley Green are behind P.E.I. Vax Bot.
Jonathan writes software for a living and created the bot. His wife, Ashley, works in marketing and design and is the voice of the service.
The bot posts new and cancelled appointments automatically to a Twitter feed. Islanders can then click those links to book a COVID-19 shot at a pharmacy or vaccination clinic.
"I think we all pretty much have a common goal that P.E.I. needs to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, and if we can help make that more efficient, we figured, why not?" Ashley said.
"I mean, it was just a one-evening project to start with, and then it's kind of become more than that … we've been spending some spare time on it. But it was pretty small to start," Jonathan said.
"We got the cancellation appointments ourselves and then decided that it would be neat to be able to … show more people that this is possible because getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible is … I think the way out of all of this."
The bot obtains information on cancellations and appointments from a feed on the Skip the Waiting Room website, a service many Islanders use to book vaccinations. It then relays that information on the bot's Twitter feed.
Jonathan started out writing only 10 lines of code for the bot, but that has expanded to hundreds in order to keep up with appointment availability. The feedback has been positive.
🗞 Earliest <a href="https://twitter.com/PEIPharmacists?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PEIPharmacists</a> dates<br>Age 40+ 💉Moderna<br><br>Montague Pharmasave 📍<br>🗓 2021-05-17 🎟 1 available<br><br>Murphy's Kensington 📍<br>🗓 2021-05-18 🎟 5 available<br><br>Souris Pharmasave 📍<br>🗓 2021-05-18 🎟 15 available<br><br>Murphy's Cornwall 📍<br>🗓 2021-05-19 🎟 1 available<br><br>1/2—@VaxPei
The couple said the bot doesn't pull any personal data from anyone who decides to use the service. P.E.I. Vax Bot can be found on Twitter @VaxPEI.
The bot joins similar services in Atlantic Canada and across the country.
Available COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Prince Edward Island can also be viewed at the province's website.