'We whipped up an app in about three hours': Engineer creates tool that finds nearby vaccine clinics in Ontario

Front line healthcare workers wait in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

There's a new tool available in Ontario that will help residents find the closest COVID-19 vaccination clinics near them.

Zain Manji and his friend Ashish developed a tool where residents can text their postal code to a number and it will immediately respond with details of the three closest vaccination clinics near them.

Manji, who is a software engineer, told CP24 he thought of the idea Friday afternoon after learning about a similar tool available in the United States.

Manji and Ashish then collaborated and “whipped up an app” in a matter of hours.

“I kind of just asked myself why isn't this in Canada? And I looked into it deeper and I realized that it wasn't really too hard to build, as long as you kind of knew how to code a little bit,” Manji told CP24 Saturday afternoon.

“And so me and a friend, Ashish, whipped up an app in about three hours where you text the phone number with your postal code and the phone number instantly replies back to you with the three closest vaccination sites to you,” he said.

After texting your postal code to 1 (833) 356-1683, you will receive an immediate text response that will include the name, address, phone number and website of the closest pharmacies near you that are administering vaccines.

“As soon as you text the postal code that you belong into, we basically use that postal code and map it to the closest three locations from that [provincial booking] website and tell you exactly where those pharmacies are,” Manji said.

Manji, who is co-founder of software consulting firm Lazer, said his background in creating mobile and web products helped him develop the tool in just one night.

“I was already very familiar with building a mobile and web product so it was probably a little faster for me but, you know, I think, as long as you know how to code, it's a pretty straightforward process,” he said.

The tool is only available in Ontario but Manji said they are planning to expand the feature to other provinces in Canada next week. When asked on Twitter if the service keeps any personal information, Manji tweeted that they “don't store anything.”

With the tool live for less than 24 hours, Manji said he is receiving positive reviews from the public.

“The response has been tremendous. I think everyone is super happy that this tool exists and they're able to book their vaccines from it, so it's a win, win.”

Ashish and myself just created this same tool for Ontario, Canada ����

Try texting +1 (833) 356-1683 with your postal code, you'll get an instant reply with nearby vaccination sites ��

We'll soon create it for other provinces in Canada ❤️

Go book a vaccine! #Lazer https://t.co/b5R3YQjcqk

— Zain Manji (@ZainManji)  May 1, 2021