When vaccination registration sites were broken, they interrupted maternity leave to help
While Rastegayeva made dates down south, Olivia Adams saw her stepmother struggle to find one for her husband’s grandfather here in Massachusetts. Adams, a software developer at athenahealth, was also on maternity leave when the state began posting her immunization appointments. The state’s website was instantly overwhelmed with the influx of people and then was directed to various vendor portals to find an elusive photo. So, while his toddler son slept, Adams scratched the state’s website, using his data to start creating one.
Rastegayeva, meanwhile, began investigating Massachusetts reservation systems. Working in the pharmaceutical industry, she had used online tools to keep tabs on competitors’ drug development pipelines. So she started doing the same to monitor websites for new dates. She started spreading her list of tips and tricks to friends and family and then on social media groups like Moms of Camberville on Facebook, of which Adams is also a member.
People began to reach out to Rastegayeva, telling her that they had not only used the dating advice, but had become addicted, getting a little dose of beneficial dopamine from everyone they had. had caught. Now they wanted to know how they could help. So, one Saturday afternoon, while her in-laws looked after the children, Rastegayeva and her husband also began to create a website.
The Adams and Rastegayeva sites both went live in early February. Adams created MA Covid Vaccine Appointments, a platform that gathered vaccine appointment availability from the state database. Within 24 hours of posting to Twitter, she took to CNN. She quickly began responding to requests to meet with Gov. Charlie Baker’s team and politicians seeking help in other states where booking sites were not performing as expected, while simultaneously scouring care for the baby, who is severely disabled. Adams remembers sitting in a hospital hallway with her laptop while her son was being tested. “And I’m just making a Zoom call with the governor of Illinois giving him advice on how to get people vaccinated,” she recalls. “I was like, What is my life like now?“
Meanwhile, the Rastegayeva, Massachusetts COVID Vaccination Help site gathered an army of hundreds of volunteers, each willing to spend hours finding appointments for the elderly, non-English speaking or undocumented, and others with limited or no access to the Internet. Most volunteers would line up at midnight, when most appointments were available, and use the Slack messaging platform to assign cases, encourage each other (and compare snack choices) until the little one. morning.
“I didn’t know where I started, but once inside I was like, What am I going to do, not do this?», Remembers Rastegayeva. “All of these people need help and there are hundreds of people ready to help.”
One of them was Adams. Once MA Covid Vaccine Appointments was up and running with a team of a dozen volunteers, Adams came on board to help fix the background of Massachusetts’ COVID vaccination aid, which had been hacked together and was now collapsing under the volume of requests. “She and her team joined our team and really helped us straighten the ship,” said Rastegayeva. “She was our technology manager. It was great. My husband said to me, ‘Thank goodness Olivia is here’ and we were both like, ‘Uh, we’re both on maternity leave.’ “
Eventually, others in the state also stepped up. Rastegayeva’s colleague at Foundation Medicine in Cambridge, Product Manager Kunal Shah, teamed up with Zane Stiles, a private equity partner at Bain Capital, to launch VaccinateMA.com, another portal helping people find open vaccination appointments. “We were all in communication with each other and trying to achieve the same end goal,” Shah says. “It felt like a community effort. “
In total, the Adams site recorded more than 20 million page views and the Rastegayeva team of volunteers managed to make more than 25,000 appointments. Luckily, the two were able to get a few extra weeks of much-needed maternity leave when their efforts ended, and the women have since become friends. “We’re in the same cohort of moms – our babies are only two weeks apart,” says Rastegayeva, as if they also haven’t helped vaccinate tens of thousands of people together.
Adams says the experience made her “realize the level of impact an individual can have” and left her feeling that she could do so much more. “I don’t know what it is yet, but I’ll find out soon enough,” she said. “I just hope I don’t stay awake until 2 a.m. too often.”