Responding to the rise of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, a team of researchers at the nonprofit Dweebs Global, from high school students to senior professionals, joined together to create the most comprehensive list of vaccine availability worldwide.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, scientists were rushing to come up with a solution and many policymakers were rushing to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people. However, because of the overwhelming nature of the pandemic, vaccine distributors often struggled to inform the public about how to actually access the vaccine.
Janani Mohan, the Executive Director of Dweebs Global, recalls her own struggle to find a vaccine during the early days. “I’m fortunate because now vaccines are available everywhere in the U.S.,” she says, “But when I started searching for a vaccine, I would call all the local pharmacies daily to try to move off a waitlist. Because of family health conditions, I’ve had to be extra careful for the past year and I spent hours on the phone each day to make sure that I wouldn’t be the one bringing the disease home.”
However, as she is the first to acknowledge, there are so many people around the world who have yet to gain access to the vaccine. In India, as the second wave spirals out of control, many people are just becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. And, in the Philippines, less than 5 percent of the population has received one shot, while only around 1.5 percent are vaccinated.
It is for these reasons that Dweebs Global decided to bring together researchers to build a platform where people from around the world could search their vaccination eligibility and where to receive a vaccine. “Does this website have every city around the world? Is it perfect?” Maiya Siford, who leads the research project alongside Sarah Dodge, asks, “Not yet. But we’re getting there and this resource will enable thousands of people around the world to search for vaccines in their location.”
And to build out this resource, Dweebs Global brought together individuals from all walks of life. “I am currently a junior at Dublin High School in the United States,” says Christian, “Making sure that people remain protected through precautions and vaccines plays a vital role in our return to normalcy.” Nam, a graduate student at UC Berkeley agrees, “Knowing that my work can improve people’s lives, I remember why I want to pursue public health. Volunteering with Dweebs Global as a vaccine rollout researcher is one of the best decisions I made during this period of time.”
While there is still work to be done to raise awareness on this resource, the Dweebs team hopes that people around the world will soon start to use their website to find vaccines, protect themselves, and end the COVID-19 pandemic. And the team knows that this website and its existence in itself provides hope – by bringing together an international community, volunteering online during the pandemic, just to help others out.
“Researching the global vaccine rollout has given me immense hope for the future,” Maiya explains. “The project has taught me that when we come together, we can all make a great impact on the world.”