Hunting for COVID-19 shots? KC Vaccine Watch on Twitter lets you know when opportunities arise

Pfizer booster

Johnson County residents must go through a maze of online interest surveys and sign-ups to find local vaccination opportunities. The Twitter account KC Vaccine Watch sends out alerts any time appointments become available at some Kansas City area locations. Above, a COVID-19 vaccine administered at a Price Chopper in Overland Park. File photo.

The Twitter account KC Vaccine Watch may help Johnson County residents on the hunt for vaccines around the Kansas City metro.

That hunt could get more intense in coming weeks, as both Kansas and Missouri start to expand categories of eligible residents.

Since it launched at the start of March, KC Vaccine Watch has garnered more than 15,000 followers on Twitter.

Kansas City-based software engineer Peter Carnesciali created a Twitter bot that sends out notifications whenever appointments become available at certain metro retail locations.

In an interview with KCUR, Carnesciali said he started with a list of Hy-Vee pharmacy locations. He has since added dozens of other pharmacies, including Walmart, Price Chopper and Hen House locations in both Kansas and Missouri.

The account does not tweet out appointments for county-run clinics or clinics hosted by local hospital systems.

Appointments fill up quickly

Once an alert at a certain location has been sent, the account then tweets an alert when all appointments at that location have been filled. That typically happens within an hour of the initial alert.

For example, these tweets were sent Friday, when appointments briefly came open at a Hen House in Prairie Village.

Bringing clarity to frustrating vaccine search

Carnesciali’s efforts have drawn praise from not only residents seeking vaccines but from local officials like Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Quinton Lucas, who said KC Vaccine Watch gives residents “clarity on an easy to use platform helping them make their families safe.”

That echoes frustrations expressed by Shawnee Mission Post readers, who say they have been confused by the maze of vaccine sign-ups and online interest surveys.

There is not currently a central clearinghouse or “one-stop shop” for vaccine distribution in Johnson County.

Residents who are eligible under Phase 2 are encouraged to express their interest in getting vaccinated by taking the county’s vaccine interest survey.

Each health system serving Johnson County also has sign-ups for patients (and, in some cases, non-patients), and more than 20 retail pharmacies in Johnson County are offering vaccine slots through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, though those appointments typically fill up extremely quickly.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment lists all the places — including hospitals and retail pharmacies — currently offering vaccines and ways to check with those places here.

Vaccines remain in high demand

In Johnson County, vaccines remain relatively scarce, though the county — following Kansas’ phased vaccine rollout plan — has been gradually expanding eligibility.

People 65 and older remain a top priority group currently, and the county says it will soon start extending appointments to grocery store workers and restaurant and bar employees.

For a full list of Phase 2 priority groups, go here.

Tens of thousands of Johnson Countians are eligible to get vaccinated, but county health officials have been reporting weekly dose shipments from the state that typically number between 5,000 and 10,000.