Atlanta man designs text message tool to help Georgians find COVID-19 vaccine

As Georgia’s supply of the COVID-19 vaccine outpaces the demand– people looking to get it are growing more frustrated. Part of the problem for those in the first phase, which includes senior citizens, is how difficult it can be to schedule an appointment.

Ben Warlick, the founder of the tech startup Disco Droid in Atlanta, experienced the issue firsthand when he tried signing up his parents and mother in law. There were several websites to check, and on all of them it was seemingly impossible to find an appointment.

So, he wrote some code.

He decided to make the tool free to the public. With the vaccine in short supply and in high demand, it takes the guesswork out of finding an appointment, Warlick said.

Instead of hoping to get lucky by logging on to the right website at the right time -- you get a text message.

"So many people just don't have the resources to sit around and keep checking a website," Warlick said. "Some people don't have internet, some people don't have cars. People just don't have the resources to sit around and check these websites for new appointments."

Residents of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Gwinnett, Rockdale, and Newton counties can text the word ‘VAX’ to 678-679-0250.

The reply text will ask which county you’re located in and which phase you are in. (Georgia is in Phase 1A right now, which means first responders, healthcare workers, and people over 65 are eligible, among some other groups.)

Some counties, like Fulton, have similar features on their websites in which you fill out a form and they will contact you when an appointment becomes available. 

A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Health said it is in the process of designing a centralized statewide scheduling system, although it will not be ready until the middle of February.

Warlick said nearly 10,000 people have signed up for the text messages since he launched the Georgia Vax App earlier this month. He said he hopes to have data from every county in Georgia available on it within the next two weeks.

"My hope is that it makes it a little easier and will help more people get vaccinated," Warlick said.

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