COVID-19 Vaccine Wait Time? There’s an App for That: U of G Grad

Between mid-June and late August: That’s when Jasmine Mah expects to receive a vaccination for COVID-19, according to the Vaccine Queue Calculator for Canada co-developed by the U of G grad in late 2020. The app estimates when a user will receive the vaccine based on age, location, underlying health risks, national public health guidelines and other variables such as vaccine availability.

Released on Jan. 7, the calculator had received more than 1.5 million page views as of Feb. 25, says Mah, a 2019 master’s grad and now a Web content developer with Omni Calculator. The company makes apps for numerous uses, from calculating unit prices to finding true north using just a compass.

Since fall 2019, she has worked from Los Angeles as a calculator developer for Omni, a Poland-based company with developers worldwide. She partnered with U.K. colleague Steve Wooding to adapt the first vaccine calculator he developed there.

The Vaccine Queue Calculator has also gotten plenty of media attention from Canadian news outlets this year, including CBC Radio, CTV, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun.

“I track every day how many Canadians are getting vaccinated,” says Mah. Along with data about vaccine deliveries, that information is being used to improve the calculator’s accuracy.

She says the app generally proved accurate through January and February even as Canadian shipments were delayed from suppliers.

The calculator assumes that no further shipment delays will occur and that at least 70 per cent of the population will be vaccinated (based on the uptake rate for the flu vaccine in 2020).

Mah says the app gives users a rough timeline as vaccines become available for various groups across the country; the initial phases of the rollout have targeted seniors, health-care workers, Indigenous adults and long-term care residents.

She says people want to know not just where they stand in the vaccination queue but also when other family members – including people with risk complications – might get the jab.

With months yet to pass before all Canadians will be vaccinated, she says, the calculator also underlines the need to maintain public health measures to prevent the virus’s spread.

“At the end of 2020 with vaccines coming, we heard a lot of people being too optimistic,” she says. “For most of 2021, we’re still going to have to be careful. It’s not over yet.”

For her master’s degree, Mah studied plants in growth chambers and greenhouses in the School of Environmental Sciences. Referring to a statistics course especially, she says, “Everything I learned in my master’s is useful.”

She learned about Omni after looking for a handy app to estimate amounts of energy in light sources. “They didn’t have the calculator I needed, but they were hiring.”

She’s now developing calculators to help photographers figure out depth of field and to assist growers in gauging horticultural lighting.

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