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UB launches website to find appointments for COVID-19 vaccine

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Wed, Mar 31st 2021 10:10 am

Vaccinehound.org is a one-stop shop that lists appointment openings throughout the region

By the University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo has launched a new website to help people easily find available COVID-19 vaccination appointments across Western New York.

WNY Vaccine Hound is a critical community resource that serves as a one-stop website that lists vaccination appointment openings in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Niagara and Erie counties.

The website was developed and launched by faculty, students and staff from UB’s School of Management, with assistance from the UB Information Technology group, under the leadership of Brice Bible, vice president and chief information officer, and university communications.

Although a handful of appointment generating websites have become common knowledge since vaccinations began, Vaccine Hound searches more than 100 local sites daily, looking for evidence of open appointments. Much like a retail aggregator helps locate hard-to-find products by pointing visitors to stores that have those items in stock, UB’s WNY Vaccine Hound volunteers search its large pool of potential vaccination sites, and point users to locations with appointment openings.

It’s important to note that WNY Vaccine Hound does not schedule or manage appointments, but instead highlights opportunities for vaccination. This service streamlines the often-exhausting process of finding an open appointment, according to Natalie Simpson, Ph.D., who leads the department of operations management and strategy in the UB School of Management.

“At a time when the vaccine is still relatively scarce while the number of people searching for vaccine appointments continues to rise, making an appointment can be stressful and frustrating,” Simpson says. “As a result, looking for an appointment may often seem like a taxing game of ‘Whack-a-Mole,’ as opportunities vanish as quickly as they sometimes appear.”

Simpson first approached Sanjukta Das Smith, chair of the department of management science and systems, about the opportunity for UB talent to make a difference in this situation.

Das Smith quickly identified the team to fix that problem: Dominic Sellitto, team leader and UB adjunct instructor, along with Anthony Guarnieri, Aditi Samiran Katti and Mayuri Garg, graduate students in the School of Management’s Master of Science in Management Information Systems program. Soon after, the team began building the site, designing its user interface and developing the flexibility necessary to provide continually updated information.

“There are a lot of moving parts that went into designing something so user-friendly,” Sellitto says. “This was all remarkably accomplished in just over three weeks.

“It’s quite an achievement.”

“We hope to make vaccination a bit less stressful, and to allow the community to see a wide range of opportunities,” Simpson says. “We know people are often driving considerable distances to receive a vaccination, but Vaccine Hound now lets people see what organizations in their own neighborhood might be providing.

“Its arrival couldn’t be more timely and we’re thrilled that a UB team has been able to lend a hand.”

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