Biden promises federal website for finding COVID-19 vaccines on May 1
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information on the U.S. Digital Service’s involvement and federal technology teams supporting vaccination scheduling.
President Biden teased a new federal COVID-19 vaccine website, capable of showing users places with vaccines available nearest them, during his first prime-time address Thursday.
Biden directed all states, tribes and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination no later than May 1, when the site will launch.
The existing Department of Health and Human Services-run vaccines.gov provides general information on who is eligible for a vaccine and when they might expect to get vaccinated, but it can’t help users find places with vaccines available.
“At the time that everyone is eligible in May, we will launch with our partners new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot — including a new website that will help you first find the place for you to get vaccinated and the one nearest you,” Biden said. “No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.”
The U.S. Digital Service, government’s fix-it team, “is engaged on the effort” but can’t provide additional details at this time, a spokesperson told FedScoop.
A call center will be stood up alongside the website to accommodate people without internet access or technical savvy.
The website will not let users schedule vaccinations, and instead the federal government will bolster state and local efforts on that front.
“Since so many Americans use their state and local websites to schedule vaccine appointments, the administration will also deploy technology teams to help to improve these systems,” said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, during a briefing Friday.
In the meantime VaccineFinder.org, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works with regularly, began showing locations for COVID-19 vaccines in late February, a CDC spokesperson told FedScoop.
The locations shown are either part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program or in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, New York (excluding New York City), Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. Provider information includes the types of COVID-19 vaccine available, contact information, hours of operation and instructions on how to get vaccinated.
White House officials anticipate having enough vaccines for every adult in the U.S. by May’s end.
“We need to make it easier for every American to get vaccinated,” Zients said. “Too often it’s too difficult, too time consuming and too frustrating for people to identify where vaccines are available and where to schedule an appointment.”