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Volunteers launch website to compile Michigan COVID-19 vaccine information

"We just want everyone in Michigan to have access to all the information available to them, we want to bring them clarity, regardless of vaccine availability."

A group of growing volunteers are compiling up to date information to help ease the COVID-19 vaccination process, one that's been slower than expected as demand far outweighs supply. 

"Our biggest goal is simply to bring clarity," said Aarti Narayanan, one of VaccineMI.com's coordinators.

Narayanan has spent the last few weeks trying to schedule a vaccination for her dad, who is currently eligible under state guidelines. When she saw an effort in California to compile vaccine information, she realized it was something she wanted to bring to Michigan. 

"It turns out some other Michiganders had the same idea," Narayanan said in an interview Friday. 

Narayanan, who is a data analyst, and a small team of people who'd never met before, started to build the site, working around their day jobs. 

"We all kind of come from different industries and backgrounds, but many of us had some software skills, which were useful in standing up the site," she said. 

The site is still in its infancy, Narayanan said, but it's updated routinely based on information that the group of volunteers gathers in phone calls to health departments and hospitals. The site also pulls information on clinics from state and county websites. 

West Michigan health departments and health systems launched VaccinateWestMi.com early in the rollout to coordinate information across vaccine partners. The website hosts information about the vaccine itself, as well as, links to each area provider's registration site, from there the process differs from clinic to clinic. 

The state has also created a landing page for vaccine information, though many counties lack any registration information. 

There are gaps and questions that the creators of VaccineMi.com have experienced firsthand, and now, aim to answer. Especially considering that navigating the many websites and waitlists isn't doable for many. 

"I am a person who is very online who has a lot of patience for navigating through multiple websites, and I also have the time to do it. That's a significant issue here," Narayanan said.  

As a community-driven effort, Narayanan says, the hope is just to make as much information as possible available in one place.

"It'll probably take some time before a lot of initiatives align, but we just saw an immediate opportunity to help because all this information is so fragmented," said Narayanan.

"We know that the government officials, the healthcare officials, the frontline workers are working as hard as they can to solve these problems. So, it's hard to point any one finger in any specific direction, but anything we can do to help kind of ease that confusion, we're going to do."

The team is looking for feedback on the website, especially from healthcare providers. To send a message to the site creators, text (734) 206-7841. To volunteer or for other inquiries, email the team at contact@vaccinemi.com

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