FILE – Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Friday, March 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

FILE – Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Friday, March 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Looking for the nearest COVID shot? Tech entrepreneur creates texting software in B.C

Zain Manji says app took just one or two hours to create

Are you looking for the nearest pharmacy offering up COVID-19 vaccines in your neighbourhood?

Thanks to a Canadian engineer, there’s no need to look far. Zain Manji, a tennis player and co-founder of technology firm Lazer, created a texting service that allows British Columbians to look up their nearest pharmacy with just their postal code.

“I came across a tweet from someone in the U.S. who was talking about an app or a phone number that the White House created where you can text that phone number and get the three closest vaccination sites for you,” Manji told Black Press Media by phone Tuesday (May 4) morning.

“And I just kind of asked myself, Oh, is this in Canada? Or is this Ontario? And then we realized it wasn’t.”

He and Lazer co-founder Ashish Yelekar realized it wouldn’t take long to build such an app – just one to two hours. And so the idea was born.

“So we just built it and which is also with the hopes that someone would use it and hopefully find a vaccine appointment,” Manji said.

And it’s been a success, both in Ontario where it was first launched and now in B.C.

“We’ve gotten a bunch of messages so far, across both provinces, actually, where people have been able to book an appointment because of the tool and also be able to join a waitlist that they didn’t know that they could join, because of the tool.”

While the ease with which Manji and Yelekar created the app raises questions as to why it didn’t exist before – Manji said that”honestly, it’s a super simple app. It’s literally like less than 100 lines of code” – the engineer is just glad it’s helping Canadians get vaccinated.

The app uses publicly available data in B.C., gleaned from the BC Pharmacy Association, but Manji said he would be happy to work with the province to provide more data.

Next on Manji’s list is Alberta, which has seen record high COVID cases in recent days.

“We’re hoping Alberta can be launched either like today or tomorrow, depending on the outcome of our work today.”

To find out where your nearest pharmacies providing COVID-19 vaccines are, text 1 (833) 356-1683 with your postal code. Availability will depend on the pharmacy, but people ages 40 and up are able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at participating locations all across B.C., while people ages 30 and up can get it in some COVID hot spots.

Whether you’ve gotten your first dose at a pharmacy or through the age-based system, the B.C. government is asking everyone to register at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca.

READ MORE: AstraZeneca vaccine can be given to adults 30 and older, NACI recommends

READ MORE: B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots


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