CONCORD (KPIX 5) – An East Bay software engineer has developed a free app that scours the websites of more than 20 healthcare providers in the Bay Area for open vaccine appointments, immediately notifying users in real-time.
Mukesh Aggarwal, a principal security engineer at Intuit, with more than 20 years of industry experience, has spent the past month building and refining the app. Aggarwal conceived the idea after spending some time trying to book an appointment for his elderly parents.
“I thought that if I, being a software engineer, if I’m having so much of a hard time finding appointments for my parents, a normal person who’s not good with computers, or the websites, how would they find the appointment?” Aggarwal told KPIX 5.
Once an hour, Aggarwal’s app scans public and private healthcare providers including Stanford, MyTurn, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, and CVS, searching for open slots. The app then pushes results to a chat group on the Telegram app called “Bay Area Vaccine Notifications.”
Complete directions can be found here.
Users can adjust settings to receive notifications immediately. With more than 8,100 users and growing, any open appointments are snatched up quickly. But when sites release larger blocks of appointments, users will have a bit more time to act.
A brief check of the app at 8 a.m. Tuesday found multiple slots at a clinic in Santa Clara, but the slots were gone within an hour.
Aggarwal visits the Facebook page “Bay Area Vaccine Hunters” every night to answer questions about the app. He spends about 3 to 4 hours a night testing all the links to ensure the app’s reliability and performance. Saving lives has become “a passion”, he said, as he recalled how one woman used the technology.
“She actually got 40 to 50 appointments for people in her community, who are not tech savvy. That kind of warms your heart that this is worth it,” said Aggarwal. “I feel that the biggest religion is helping other people without any expecting any returns from that. So I, I believe that you do good people will do good to you and it’s karma.”
San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla first met Aggarwal through the Facebook page, and asked the engineer to include East San Jose in the search results. East San Jose has among the highest infection rates in the Bay Area. Bonilla said county governments and the state need to do more to sort through the vaccine chaos.
“To me, Mukesh is a hero,” Bonilla told KPIX 5. “This is the time to rewrite the rules and aggressively partner up with people like Mukesh in the private sector, to see how they can actually help. Because they’re wanting to, they’re willing to, but counties have to open those doors in order to make that a reality.”
Aggarwal says he will provide the code to any software engineer who would like to launch a similar effort in their area.