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University of Auckland alumni take a shot at helping Kiwis get their Covid vaccines

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5 October 2021

A platform developed by a team of nine University of Auckland and AUT alumni just one month ago has already helped 70,000 Kiwis find and book their Covid vaccinations. Vaxx.nz is a tool that helps people locate an available vaccination centre near them quickly and easily, with the aim of helping New Zealand reach its 90% vaccination target as soon as possible.

On the website, users simply specify their location and the maximum distance they wish to travel, and they will be shown all of the earliest available vaccination slots that fit their search parameters in a clean, easy to digest format. After selecting their desired slot, users are taken to the official government website to complete their booking. The team has also released a widget that can be compactly integrated into any website such as news outlets and Microsoft Teams. 

The idea for Vaxx.nz came about when a mutual friend of the team expressed their frustration at finding a suitable vaccination appointment. Inspired by the realisation that many people across New Zealand are likely feeling the same way, they spent just a few days building systems to hook into Ministry of Health data and designing a more intuitive platform for people to find appointments on. After receiving tens of thousands of users in just the first few days, they expanded out to include the open-source community. Today, they have 34 contributors on GitHub adding new features, bug fixes, languages, and more.

Recent University of Auckland Science and Commerce graduate and CIE alumnus Oliver Cooper is one of the designers and front end developers on the team. He says “With such a broad target audience (essentially the whole country) accessibility was our primary focus. For example, ensuring the website was usable for people with impaired vision or for people who may not understand English. The design was built around visual clarity and ease of use, and supports nearly 20 languages.”

Another design challenge faced by the team was ensuring that they provide as much useful information as possible, while still adhering to government guidance. For example, upon hearing about the project a number of independent pharmacies and walk-in vaccination centres with lots of availability asked to be included on the platform. However, at the time the government was wanting to encourage bookings through their official website, so the team had to develop a way of balancing those requests. 

Seeing the project successfully solve an important real-world issue has been a huge highlight for the whole team. “Vaxx.nz has been a great example of product-market fit and how the skills we’ve developed at University and through work can have a real-life impact. We’ve had everyday Kiwis to doctors to Minister Chris Hipkins reach out and commend the team. Being able to work directly with the Ministry of Health’s technical team to further improve the site and help achieve its goals has also been a personal highlight,” says Oliver.

Thinking about the future, the team hopes to be able to apply their technology to other issues faced in New Zealand and around the globe. Oliver says, “We hope to successfully retire Vaxx.nz once the whole of New Zealand is vaccinated. We are also exploring the possibility of white-labelling the platform for other countries since the underlying technology can be used for many systems similar to the one being used by the Ministry of Health. But that’s a much bigger, elusive goal. Stay tuned.”

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

social media

5 October 2021

A platform developed by a team of nine University of Auckland and AUT alumni just one month ago has already helped 70,000 Kiwis find and book their Covid vaccinations. Vaxx.nz is a tool that helps people locate an available vaccination centre near them quickly and easily, with the aim of helping New Zealand reach its 90% vaccination target as soon as possible.

On the website, users simply specify their location and the maximum distance they wish to travel, and they will be shown all of the earliest available vaccination slots that fit their search parameters in a clean, easy to digest format. After selecting their desired slot, users are taken to the official government website to complete their booking. The team has also released a widget that can be compactly integrated into any website such as news outlets and Microsoft Teams. 

The idea for Vaxx.nz came about when a mutual friend of the team expressed their frustration at finding a suitable vaccination appointment. Inspired by the realisation that many people across New Zealand are likely feeling the same way, they spent just a few days building systems to hook into Ministry of Health data and designing a more intuitive platform for people to find appointments on. After receiving tens of thousands of users in just the first few days, they expanded out to include the open-source community. Today, they have 34 contributors on GitHub adding new features, bug fixes, languages, and more.

Recent University of Auckland Science and Commerce graduate and CIE alumnus Oliver Cooper is one of the designers and front end developers on the team. He says “With such a broad target audience (essentially the whole country) accessibility was our primary focus. For example, ensuring the website was usable for people with impaired vision or for people who may not understand English. The design was built around visual clarity and ease of use, and supports nearly 20 languages.”

Another design challenge faced by the team was ensuring that they provide as much useful information as possible, while still adhering to government guidance. For example, upon hearing about the project a number of independent pharmacies and walk-in vaccination centres with lots of availability asked to be included on the platform. However, at the time the government was wanting to encourage bookings through their official website, so the team had to develop a way of balancing those requests. 

Seeing the project successfully solve an important real-world issue has been a huge highlight for the whole team. “Vaxx.nz has been a great example of product-market fit and how the skills we’ve developed at University and through work can have a real-life impact. We’ve had everyday Kiwis to doctors to Minister Chris Hipkins reach out and commend the team. Being able to work directly with the Ministry of Health’s technical team to further improve the site and help achieve its goals has also been a personal highlight,” says Oliver.

Thinking about the future, the team hopes to be able to apply their technology to other issues faced in New Zealand and around the globe. Oliver says, “We hope to successfully retire Vaxx.nz once the whole of New Zealand is vaccinated. We are also exploring the possibility of white-labelling the platform for other countries since the underlying technology can be used for many systems similar to the one being used by the Ministry of Health. But that’s a much bigger, elusive goal. Stay tuned.”


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