New Twitter account that posts vaccine availability helps Iowans get their COVID-19 vaccine

Twitter account made by an Iowa City resident, which has gained over 23,000 followers, is trying to help people schedule their appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine


Raquele Decker

Photo illustration by Raquele Decker.

Brady Osborne, News Reporter

A new Twitter account is helping people in Iowa find and schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

@IAVaccineAlerts is an account on Twitter that posts locations and times of appointments at pharmacies across Iowa for people to get vaccinated.

Brian Finley, a web developer at the University of Iowa and the creator of the account, said he uses national data aggregation done by individuals as well as vaccine providers like HyVee to determine appointment availability. He took this information and wrote a script that would notify him whenever there was an appointment available nearby.

Finley said he started this account because when he embarked on a search for the vaccine for himself, he had trouble finding where to do it because of a shortage of vaccines as well as limited availability in accessible locations.

“I feel like it was definitely a shortage of vaccines. I mean, based on how quickly appointments are going now,” Finley said. “I don’t know the particular numbers but there are obviously way more people that want to get vaccinated than there are vaccines right now — especially the bigger cities so it was just kind of picking random towns in Iowa until I happened to stumble upon an appointment with HyVee to get my shot.”

Finley said he got his shot March 8 and started the account March 10. Since then, the account has amassed more than 22,000 followers.

Most of the automated tweets about dates and times get anywhere between five and 20 likes and several retweets, but on the occasions that Finley uses the account to tweet or interact with followers, the engagement goes up, with some tweets reaching over 600 likes. Finley, along with tweeting about available appointments, retweet posts encouraging people to reach out to pharmacies and commit to their appointments once they are scheduled.

Finley said an issue with these vaccine appointments is following through with scheduled appointments — especially at pharmacies in rural areas far away from where the scheduler lives.

He added that people who schedule these appointments should try as hard as they can to follow through with it, since that puts the provider in a scramble to find some who needs a vaccination in order to not waste a shot.

“They’re having a lot of people schedule appointments and either cancel them or not show up for them after finding a closer appointment, which puts a lot of stress on the pharmacists because they have to call and find someone to take the appointment last minute,” Finley said.

University of Iowa third-year student Saul Ocampo Landa said before he found out about this account, the process to find a vaccine was confusing.

“There just wasn’t a lot of clarity,” Ocampo Landa said. “It was mostly that I didn’t know where to start.”

Ocampo Landa said the Twitter account helped with the logistical side of getting vaccinated and could also help with a surplus of vaccines that are not getting used and eventually getting thrown out.

“More than anything it seems to be a logistical issue with distribution and dissemination of information,” Ocampo Landa said. “That’s why it’s so amazing. It allowed everyone who could register to actually get it and not worry about supplies or where to get it from or who to get it from.”

Johnson County Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis said accounts like these are born out of frustration for lack of vaccine accessibility.

“We really see a lot of creativity coming out of this because it has been frustrating for folks to try and find appointments nearby,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said while accessibility has been a problem up to this point, Johnson County Public Health has been committed to sharing information and getting as many people vaccinated as they can.

“Whether it’s word of mouth, online, by phone, through social media, in person, or by flyers and door knocking, we are trying our best to get information out to the public,” Jarvis said.