Jag Vill Ha Vaccin! (“I Want a Vaccine!”) aims to make the process of Covid-19 vaccine-booking in Sweden a lot easier.
It’s an open-source website that collects available vaccine times from the many booking platforms on regional health portals, private health providers, and 1177.se to check if there are any open slots near you.
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The person who brought the platform to Sweden is Pierre Mesure, who was so relieved when he got his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine while back in France that he wanted to make it easier for people in his adopted home.
“I was feeling so grateful after my dose I thought, who can I help get theirs?” he told The Local.
Mesure works in open data and civic tech and has lived in Sweden for four and a half years. He found his first vaccine shot through the French app Vite Ma Dose (Quick, My Dose), an open-source platform that finds and shares last-minute vaccination slots across France.
Vite Ma Dose recorded a peak of 10 million searches in one day. It was met with almost unanimous praise in France; Guillaume Rozier, who started the site, was even congratulated by the President with a National Order of Merit.
The Swedish version was a weekend hobby project for Mesure, who took the original open-source code from Vite Ma Dose and adjusted it for the Swedish context.
Jag Vill Ha Vaccin has only recorded a peak of about 13,000 visits so far, but for a prototype, it’s grown faster than Mesure could have imagined.
He tweeted about the site on May 24th. “Then everything got a bit crazy. Newspapers started to call, regions started to call,” he said.
Clearly, it’s something that is sorely needed in Sweden right now.
The personnummer problem
Several readers of The Local have reported issues with accessing the vaccine without a personnummer, the 10-or-12-digit code for registered residents in Sweden. To book a vaccine online, a personnummer is required, and in many regions you also need an electronic ID such as BankID.
“The way the system is set up to find and book doses usually requires BankID. It’s discriminating disproportionally to immigrants,” Mesure said.
Ana Bulas Cruz works with Mesure on developing the site. She’s one of the people who risk falling through the cracks of the healthcare system.
Even when her age group gets offered the vaccine, she won’t be able to access Stockholm’s online booking platform, because she’s still waiting to get BankID set up after moving to Sweden in October last year.
The Covid-19 vaccines are available to everyone in Sweden, regardless of whether or not you have BankID or a personnummer, but people without one are advised to call their doctor’s office directly. Many readers have told The Local the process worked smoothly, but others have said they encountered problems when trying to book.
“It’s really about being outside of the system – the civic environment where everything happens. Then you can’t access a lot of things,” she told The Local.
Mesure thinks that the pandemic has served to highlight the fact that there’s always been this exclusion in Sweden.
“I’m not saying that immigrants should have priority in the queue to get the vaccine, but I know many people that haven’t seen their family in over a year and a half,” he said.
“It’s especially discriminatory because it’s harder for them to get it while it is requested for them to see their family,” he said, referencing the requirement for a Covid vaccine pass. In its first iteration it will only be available to people with an electronic ID who got vaccinated in Sweden (although Swedish authorities have said they are looking into improving access).
Helping those who fall beyond the Swedish welfare system is one of the reasons why they decided to set up Jag Vill Ha Vaccin.
“It’s not a public service”
Jag Vill Ha Vaccin doesn’t allow users to bypass the booking system – you still need to meet the regional health authorities’ requirements for booking a vaccine appointment online – but it aims to list all available time slots in a clearer way. A nationwide platform that simplifies the vaccine booking process would be especially useful for people who are having a hard time with accessing the health services.
But it’s currently only able to show the available times in nine of Sweden’s 21 regions.
That’s because in many of the regions, including Stockholm, it’s not possible to see available vaccine times without logging in via BankID. This effectively blocks the site’s code from accessing data on available slots and prevents anyone without BankID from finding a time online.
When Jag Vill Har Vaccin was first released, some of the regions wanted them to take down the site for fear it was causing confusion among the public and preventing people from going through the information before reaching a booking time. A handful have since been convinced that the service doesn’t pose a risk.
Mesure has emailed all regions to collaborate but only a few have responded.
“It’s the non-confrontational government way of doing things; they can’t say no so they just don’t say yes,” he said.
Some have been enthusiastic about people taking public health access into their own hands.
The Västra Götaland region developed an API (software that allows two applications to talk to each other) to make it easier for Jag Vill Ha Vaccin to track newly available times in the region’s vaccine centres. But others have not been so welcoming of the new site.
“It’s not a public service, it’s a hobby project. We’re not trying to fix everything, it’s just an attempt to help as many people as possible,” Mesure insisted.
“It’s our job to use data to be beneficial to people,” Bulas Cruz agreed.
“We’re not doing something for profit, our goal is to make the vaccination campaign easier and more successful.”
They hope that eventually they’ll be able to show available times for all the regions, but that relies on their cooperation.
The power of openness
Currently the site is only available in Swedish but they’re hoping that volunteers can help them translate the site into other languages.
“If you want to help it’s open to contribute if you want to translate it in any language. Just contact us and we’ll help you to do it!”
This is what open-source tech is all about, they say.
“The point is that you don’t need to be a genius to do something like this, it’s not about a single person tech superstar – a lot of people who want to help, do,” Bulas Cruz said.
So far, around 15 people have contributed to Jag Vill Ha Vaccin, many of whom are immigrants themselves or have lived abroad.
As a champion of open tech, Mesure hopes the site will do more than just help more people get vaccinated.
“It’s not just a tool for citizens to get a vaccine, but a democratic tool to put the info in the hands of everyone,” he said.