Union County claims vaccine-finding Twitter bot is helping too many white people
The creator of a Twitter account that finds COVID-19 vaccination appointments says it is still working despite Union County officials blocking it over concerns of racial parity.
The difficulty of finding an appointment created a cottage industry of sorts for people using social media to help others find appointments. The state came up with its own appointment-locating website where vaccine site clinics can be viewed by a full list or searched by county with the option of showing only sites with available appointments.
Union County spokesman Sebastian D’Elia told NJ.com that the Twitter account @UCNJ_VaccineBot, which searches the county's site for available appointments and notifies a subscriber of an availability, favors "white, suburban people" and was taking appointments away from county residents.
The county added a captcha box to its website, which Noah Marcus, who runs the account, told NJ.com that he was was able to get around. On the Twitter account on Monday, Marcus wrote that "I am still up and running and will continue to report when vaccines are available!"
On his personal Twitter account, he explained that his program does not make appointments but only make people aware of when they are available.
"They send out alerts whenever appointments are available so residents, or volunteers on behalf of residents, can schedule their own appointments," Marcus said.
He was also critical of the time and effort needed to find an appointment online.
"What is the alternative to an alert system? Everyone having to refresh the webpage constantly? Not everyone has that privilege of time and access," Marcus wrote.
The state opened vaccinations to everyone who lives, works or studies in New Jersey over the age of 16 on Monday.
The state's COVID-19 dashboard reports that 3.8 million doses have been administered as of Monday with 2.5 million individuals fully vaccinated: 56% are white while 10% are Hispanic/Latinx, 9% Asian, 6% Black, 10% are classified as other and 9% unknown.