For hitting refresh on the process to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment
When the U.S. federal government authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December, it put seniors near the front of the line. But when Huge Ma sat down to help his mom make an appointment in New York, he was shocked to find that there were multiple city and state systems, each with their own cumbersome sign-in protocols that were befuddling to even tech-savvy adults. A software engineer at Airbnb, Ma figured there had to be a better way.
So he built one—in less than two weeks (reportedly with Bridgerton playing on Netflix in the background).
His solution: TurboVax, a Twitter bot that aggregated all available appointments from the three main city and state vaccine systems in New York and put them into one user-friendly space. Available slots were tweeted out and published on a TurboVax website in real time. By April, TurboVax’s Twitter account had more than 160,000 followers and its site attracted up to 1 million views a day. The demand became so great that Ma took a break from Airbnb to run TurboVax full time, using open-source code so others could build on his work.
That same month, U.S. Congressman Ritchie Torres, who represents one of the hardest-hit areas of the city during the pandemic, honored Ma for his help getting thousands of New Yorkers vaccinated. “At a cost of only US$50, and in less than two weeks, Huge managed to do what the federal government and what the local and city government failed to do with much greater resources,” Torres said at the time.
In early May, Ma announced he was shutting down TurboVax, as the vaccine appointment process matured. But clearly not one to rest on his laurels, Ma is channeling the momentum from TurboVax into his next project: raising money to combat anti-Asian hate and violence. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also putting some time and energy into advocating for a better bicycle infrastructure—which he tweeted about after pedaling to his vaccine appointment.