“I saw my own family struggling to book vaccine appointments, and that got me thinking about how many others in the region must be experiencing the same challenges,” says Lilian Toma.
Lilian is a second year Master of Pharmacy student and the person behind Waterloo Vaccine Tracker, a project to collate and share vaccine appointments throughout the region, with the goal of simplifying the process of finding a vaccine appointment. Drawing inspiration from Vaccine Hunters Canada, a volunteer run project that has helped Canadians across the country book appointments, Lilian developed her own social media profiles with the goal of providing information specific to Waterloo Region.
“Between our own regional system and individual pharmacies, finding an appointment can be time-consuming and difficult,” Lilian says. “I wanted to create a space where you could find availability specifically for the Waterloo Region. I also really didn’t want any doses to go to waste just because people didn’t know they were available!”
Lilian’s Waterloo Vaccine Tracker project uses multiple methods to collate information on appointments. She conducts some manual searching, but the bulk of her posts use information from clinics and pharmacies in the area that have sent her an email or message. She also uses resources like vaccine-ontario.ca and Vaccine Hunters Canada to source information. Lilian, working with another volunteer, pools this information and posts it to Waterloo Vaccine Tracker’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.
As a graduate student, Lilian has been completing courses and lab work throughout the pandemic. Her research investigates small molecule treatments for COVID-19, with a focus on molecules that could be taken orally. Despite her busy work and school life, supporting the vaccination campaign in her community remains an important priority for her.
“Time is of the essence when it comes to vaccination, and I thought posting availability could help simplify the searching process and bring people in to get vaccinated sooner,” she says. “The reception to the project has been amazing. We’ve had many people message or tweet us to say that they were able to book because of the project. It feels great to know that people in our region are finding it useful!
As demand for vaccines changes in the region, Lilian continues to see engagement on the project’s social media pages, and she is looking to recruit another volunteer to support her project. To get in touch or find an vaccine appointment, follow Waterloo Vaccine Tracker on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.