116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Throughout the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Iowa, many Iowans have struggled to track down shots for themselves or their loved ones.
Especially earlier this year, when demand was much greater than supply, Iowans could check dozens of websites for pharmacies and clinics without any success in scheduling an appointment. The process could be time-consuming, and left many frustrated and dejected.
So Todd Brady created a solution.
The Ankeny-based software engineer created Vaccine Hunter, a website that aggregates available vaccine appointments at hundreds of vaccine providers across the state and publishes them automatically online.
In March, the website — brady-software.com/vaccine-hunter — had more than 11.5 million hits with more than 200,000 individual users.
He was struck not only by the sheer number of individuals using his site every day, Brady said, but also the “Iowa nice” that has emerged in the weeks since the tool launched. In recent days, many using the site aren’t looking for COVID-19 vaccines for themselves, but for others.
“It’s a village,” Brady said. “It’s not just our tools, it’s also a lot of people using our tools to help other people find appointments.”
Brady, 37, works as a software engineer for Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. He also uses his skills for various side projects to aggregate sports content, so the switch to aggregating pharmacy data “was not a huge leap.”
A collaborator also translated Vaccine Hunter into Spanish in an effort to ease the search for Spanish-speaking residents.
He created the tool months ago on his personal domain to help find appointments for his wife’s parents when they became eligible for the vaccine in February. He initially used the state’s platform that lists COVID-19 vaccine providers, vaccinate.iowa.gov, but the tool didn’t list open appointments on the site.
“I thought, ‘I think I can make this a little bit better,’ ” he said.
Vaccine Hunter automatically searches for available appointment times at hundreds of pharmacies, health care systems and county public health departments and publishes them on the website. Each site with an available appointment also includes a link to schedule the appointment, as well as the type of vaccine that will be administered at the location.
After creating the tool and finding vaccines for his in-laws, Brady began sending it to other family members and friends to help them. But as he heard of the challenges other Iowans faced, he decided to help them, too.
In early March, Brady made the website public.
Other Iowans have created similar tools to ease the COVID-19 vaccine hunt for others, including Iowa City resident Brian Finley, who runs the @IAVaccineAlerts Twitter page.
“I wished the state had done more of this,” Brady said, referring to his site and other tools such as the @IAVaccineAlerts page. “I think if it wasn’t for (these tools), I don’t know what the rollout would look like. But our tools have really pushed Iowa ahead.”
Traffic to the site has begun to slow down as supply increases and Iowans are finding it easier to track down appointments. Brady plans to keep the website up as long as individuals still are using Vaccine Hunter to look for a COVID-19 vaccine
“I’m not going to close anytime soon,” Brady said.
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