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VaccineFinder: New tool aims to show where COVID-19 shots are available

A CDC-backed tool previously used to help Americans find flu vaccines has been repurposed to show where COVID-19 vaccines are available by zip code.

WASHINGTON — The process of tracking down where COVID-19 vaccines are available could soon get a little easier, thanks to a tool backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The goal of VaccineFinder.org is to make it easier for the public to find information about locations that carry vaccines in their communities and how to make an appointment. The website also gives vaccine providers an outlet to report if they are still stocked with the coronavirus vaccine or not.

The tool was made in partnership with the CDC, Boston Children's Hospital Harvard Medical School and Castlight Health.

In most states, the initial website launch is limited to just pharmacy and drugstore chains that are getting vaccines directly from the federal government. However, NRP reports that in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, and Tennessee, the tool also already shows hospitals, clinics and public health vaccination sites.

“We’re trying to create a trusted site and bring some order to all this chaos and confusion around availability,” John Brownstein, a Boston Children’s Hospital researcher who runs VaccineFinder.org, told the New York Times.

One key limitation to VaccineFinder is that the public can't book a vaccine appointment on the website. Right now, the site only offers information about where and how to book an appointment, which you then have to do through individual providers or local jurisdictions. 

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Boston Children's Hospital said the program was originally created by Google in 2009 in response to the H1N1outbreak. The software was then passed on to a team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2012. 

The website was previously used for finding information on flu and routine vaccinations before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Credit: Markus Mainka - stock.adobe.com

The CDC reports that only 6.2% of the U.S. population has received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. So far, more than 66 million doses have been administered, 45.2 million first doses and 20.6 million second doses.

Currently, only the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA two-dose vaccines are available in the United States after both received Emergency Authorization Use from the FDA. U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19. It’s expected to be approved soon by the FDA. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that if a coronavirus vaccine is available, regardless of which one, Americans should take it. 

He says it’s a race “between the virus and getting vaccines into people” and “the longer one waits not getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or a mutation.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has more than 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday, the U.S. had more than 505,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 112 million confirmed cases with nearly 2.5 million deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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