WINNIPEG - Josh Kalpin, one of a small team of volunteers helping Manitobans get vaccinated, is in many ways a fairly ordinary Canadian. He only graduated from the University of Waterloo’s software engineering program five years ago, and after spending some time in the U.S. came home to wind up working for relatively new Canadian branches of two financial tech companies. But then COVID hit.
Kalpin was searching for a way to get vaccinated against the virus, and, in the search to find answers, wrestled with lagging information logistics in his home province. Realizing that struggles by the health care system to get messages out could impact his family and friends, Kalpin got in touch with Andrew, another software developer.
Originally, Andrew, who prefers to be mononymous, was just looking to get his parents a vaccine appointment, and though he was able to eventually do so, he realized the process can sometimes be really challenging. He was inspired by Vaccine Hunter in the US, and started a Discord server and Twitter feed in March to crowdsource information and get it out into the public realm.
Kalpin, as one of only four core volunteer team members, is now helping countless Manitobans who follow Vaccine Hunters Canada while they’re looking to get vaccinated. The chat room Andrew started in March has grown to more than 25,000 members today, with thousands often online at any given moment; and the Twitter feed now has well over 156,500 followers, an over 2,000 per cent growth over the 7,000 they had just two weeks ago.
With the help of nearly 50 other volunteers, the team searches for information from clinics, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers to ensure it’s available right away, and presents it in an easy to understand format.
[MB] Thomson Lets get a move on to Walmart for vaccine!
Make it a team event @hockeymanitoba @IllegalCurvehttps://t.co/GrojKvQjbF #COVID19 #COVID19Vaccine #COVID19MB #vhcMB pic.twitter.com/VTKscfSpDS
— Vaccine Hunters Canada (@VaxHuntersCan) April 24, 2021
Unlike Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccination portal though, information shared by Vaccine Hunters Canada includes announcements from across the country.
An easy way to sort through all of the posts on the Vaccine Hunters Twitter feed is to narrow them down using their standard keyword “[mb]”, and filter for the most recent Manitoba updates in a search engine. Here’s one example of a result that uses search engine filtering tools in this way.
Kalpin says even if a province's vaccine rollout was perfect, it’s part of our culture and duty as Canadians to help each other, so the movement of a community reaching out to find answers to important questions would still serve a valuable purpose.