How a 28-year-old mom could revolutionize one state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Olivia Adams, a software developer from Arlington, Massachusetts, has casually revolutionized her state’s online COVID-19 vaccination system. 

After hearing complaints about the user-unfriendly system for booking appointments, she decided to take the issue into her own hands, using the skills she already had from her job at Athenahealth, an electronic health record company that develops software for medical offices. 

Adams had a feeling that she could alleviate some of the stresses that many of the eldery people in the state, as well as the friends and relatives trying to help them, were experiencing. 

She worked on the project for three weeks and produced remarkable results, even with the added responsibility of caring for her newborn son and his two-year-old brother. 

The 28-year-old mom was able to set up a website where people can find available appointments in Massachusetts all on one page. There was a learning curve even with her experience in the field, as she has never created her own website before. 

Adams was originally inspired to take on this endeavor after her mother-in-law had difficulty finding an appointment online through the existing system. 

“So I took a peek and looked at what resources were available and realized that there was a real need to have a centralized location,” she told WBUR

According to Adams, what sets her website apart is that the appointment availability refreshes itself every five minutes, through a code she wrote that gives it access to different websites. 

“It returns that information to my website so I can show it all together in one location,” Adams explained. 

She did say that the web development process was taxing because there wasn’t any “concentrated effort” on how to actually build these websites that would allow them to communicate with each other. 

As a result, she had to build it from scratch.

At a news conference on Friday, Feb. 5, a reporter informed Governor Charlie Baker about Adams’ site and asked if the state would consider implementing a similar program for Massachusetts residents.  

In response, Baker said, “send us her name, we’ll talk to her.” 

Adams has yet to hear from any state officials despite having reached out to the state’s Health and Human Services department. Adams says she is open and willing to collaborate. 

Two Massachusetts state representatives, Rep. Mike Connolly and Rep. Jay Livingstone, did take notice of Adams’ initiative. They were so impressed that they sent a joint letter on Saturday, Feb. 6, asking Baker to endorse her work and embed her design into the state’s official vaccine scheduling site. Connolly referred to Adams as the “vaccine hero we have all been waiting for.” 

Adams also suggested that other people with relevant skills should contribute what they can to make the system easier and more accessible for everyone as the pandemic continues. 

“I think a lot of people are not encouraged to kind of make those DIY solutions and publicize them because they don’t think that they’re super useful. And I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned…is that we should never doubt that. And we should always push our projects and see who needs them because it’s going to be more [people] than we think,” Adams said. 

While she enjoyed creating the vaccination sign-up website, Adam did mention that it’s “kind of crazy” how many people have reached out to her to tell her that this is exactly what they wished the state would have provided. 

Adams’ maternity leave is coming to an end soon, but she has started something that is bigger than a motherhood side gig. 

If she has the time, Adams said she wants to add a feature to the website that allows users to sign up for email updates as soon as more vaccine appointments become available in their area.