By Caroline Lanni
FRAMINGHAM – Framingham natives Madeleine Barowsky and Leah Hobert are volunteering their skills to the www.VaccinateMA.com website.
This website makes it easier on people who are eligible for the COVID vaccine to book an available appointments in Massachusetts.
Many across the Commonwealth have struggled to find COVID vaccine appointments, especially senior citizens.
In January, VaccinateMA.com launched.
Despite the Commonwealth maintaining a vaccine website, VaccinateMA.com said “Massachusetts is 40th out of 50 states in percentage of doses administered, according to the CDC. The State site requires multiple click-throughs to find availability and doesn’t allow easy navigation. We want to make this process easier.”
Both women attended Walsh Middle School and graduated from Framingham High School.
“I was lucky to attend Framingham High School. Not a lot of high schools offer computer science, and FHS had a few different computer science classes when I was there,” said Barowsky.
She said her teacher Paul Fournier was always encouraging her to pursue her passion for computer science.
Barowsky said she got interested in computer science in high school and is now pursuing her doctorate in computer science at Harvard.
The 2018 Wellesley College graduate, began coding as a hobby and now has been coding for a decade.
“I am not sure if I would exactly call myself a coder, but I have used some coding,” said Hobert. “I think that it’s such a cool way to make things more easily used by different people, and use it in all different fields.”
Hobert got more interested in coding when she was in college. She also graduated from Wellesley College.
Coding isn’t something that she does all the time, Hobert considers her experience in coding more as a hobby.
Hobby or expert in coding, both woman wanted to put their skills to use to help others in this pandemic, and the newly-launched website was the way to do it.
Volunteer Coordinator Barowsky said the website was made to help get as many people vaccinated as possible.
vaccinateMA.com shows every vaccination location in Massachusetts.
Barowsky said she joined as a volunteer during the early stages of the website.
She said she wanted to help volunteer because many people were having trouble finding appointments available for the vaccine.
“So the way that it differs from the official state website is that we show availability information, and how many available appointments each location has on the website,” said Barowsky.
Barowsky said VaccinateMA.com shows a map of the vaccination clinic locations with available appointments in specific communities in Massachusetts.
She said they have a mix of volunteers and a code that automatically goes to each community’s website and finds what appointments are available, and then updates vaccinateMA.com with the most up-to-date information.
“I have heard from people I know who are eligible that appointment slots were filling up instantly, and they didn’t know where to go because it was hard to find the information on what sites were open, and whether they had appointments,” said Barowsky.
Zane Stiles, Creator of VaccinateMA.com said, the goal is simple – to “help people get vaccinated.”
“As a user (I) found it confusing to have to put my information in at each location to search. The whole goal is to pull the availability or open information upfront,” said Stiles.
Stiles launched the website on January 17, and then began advertising for volunteers.
By making the VaccinateMA.com website easier to use than the current state system, we are helping the community, said Stiles.
The VaccinateMA.com makes it easier for people to not have to go to a bunch of city & town websites, and allows those individuals seeking a vaccine to find all the appointments in one place, explained Hobert.
“When I had heard about it from Madeleine I thought it would be a really good way to get involved, and a really cool project that would help, especially since a lot of the COVID information is disorganized,” said Hobert.
“We are helping to create a site where people can go to find all the information in one place about availability,” said Hobert.
“I am mainly helping because there are so many vaccination sites across Massachusetts and they just needed more people to check all the different sites, so we were able to cover everywhere,” said Hobert.
VaccinateMA.com website is important because it’s a “useful resource” that many people can use in an easier, and faster way, said Hobert.
Caroline Lanni is a 2021 spring SOURCE intern. Lanni is a senior communications major with a minor in journalism at Framingham State University. She wants to pursue a media career in broadcast journalism. She is a member of the dance team at Framingham State.