A suburban teenager whose story captured the attention of thousands when he launched a simple-to-use website to help residents book coronavirus vaccine appointments is still working on the site, and now he has a growing team of volunteers helping him in his mission.
Eli Coustan, 13, designed the website to be a simple and intuitive way for all area residents, especially older residents, to navigate the complex pathways to getting an appointment to receive the vaccine.
After Coustan helped his grandparents set up their vaccine appointments, he launched the website to help others do the same, and the results speak for themselves, with thousands of visitors a day logging onto ILVaccine.org (which you can find here).
“Today alone so far we’ve had 15,000 unique visitors,” he told our Natalie Martinez during an interview Wednesday afternoon. “I’d imagine once this airs we’ll have even more.”
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Coustan told NBC 5 earlier this year that he was hoping to enable searches by ZIP code, and to allow the site to be translated into other languages. He has made those changes while also adding additional counties in Illinois and allowing the site to refresh appointments more often.
“We launched a new design, so we were able to have more counties while making it even simpler to use,” he said. “It allows us to refresh more frequently, and we’ve launched the site in Spanish. We even added accessibility tools.”
Coustan’s mother Hillary says she is extremely proud of her son, saying that he used his remarkable talents as a programmer and developer to help people potentially get access to the all-important COVID vaccine.
“I’m incredibly proud of him,” she said. “I think he saw a need and had the ability and initiative to fill that need. He dedicated an enormous amount of time to do that.”
Coustan says that his growing team of volunteers, now 15 strong, helps him to do other things too, including posting on Twitter when large blocks of appointments drop.
“My biggest focus is to help as many people as possible. That’s why I created this site,” he says. “To make sure that people in all areas of Illinois are able to get the COVID vaccine.”