COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
With more people than coronavirus vaccines available, third-party websites are offering help to individuals trying to schedule an appointment.
Mary Bolouri and her husband lauched YourCovidShot.com last month, saying they want to help simplify the coronavirus vaccination process.
"We aim to help those that may not be tech-savvy and who are older," Bolouri said. "[You] can basically go to one place to be able to check multiple sites to try to book their COVID-19 vaccination for them."
Bolouri said she recommends people book their appointments directly through their state but said the website was created to try to help "level the playing field for those who may not be tech-savvy and who are having trouble getting vaccination appointments."
Bolouri said her grandmother died from COVID-19 a week before the vaccine came out. She said she and her husband wanted to get vaccinated as soon as they became eligible in their state of Texas and they spent 40 hours trying to figure out their vaccinations.
"We're entrepreneurs, my husband and I, and so that means we're problem solvers," Bolouri said. "And so if there's a problem where it's really hard to book a COVID-19 vaccination and there's something we can do to help, even just a little bit, then why not do it?"
The site offers three options to help people book their coronavirus vaccine. One allows people to visit links to state government websites for vaccines. Another option asks the user to leave a phone number and email to be notified of openings. The third option is to disclose all personal information needed for the site to book the vaccination appointment.
The state health department says Missourians shouldn't need such a service to book their appointments.
"I can't speak to all third party sites in general as they may all have different intents and levels of legitimacy," said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. "The one you referenced (Your Covid Shot) appears to be fine, but unnecessary for Missourians."
Cox said the state recommends people sign up directly with local vaccinators including hospitals, pharmacies and federally qualified health centers.
"While we safeguard patient information we receive at the state level, we can't guarantee that one's information would be safe through an unaffiliated third party such as this one," Cox said. "We would recommend individuals register with Missouri Vaccine Navigator on MOStopsCovid.com ... to ensure their information is being used appropriately."
The Better Business Bureau says individuals should use caution anytime they're dealing with an organization asking for sensitive information. Michelle Gleba from the BBB said the organizaiton recently researched YourCovidShot.com.
The name didn't raise any flags, she said.
"I did do a check on our website to see if we had any organization under that name and I did not find anything," Gleba said. "But again, it all boils down to basically just using caution and doing your homework before giving out any type of personal information on a website you're unfamiliar with."
Gleba said the BBB sometimes doesn't have enough information about a website but that doesn't mean it's not a legitimate site.
Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said the department has been clear about contacting a doctor's office first to schedule a coronavirus vaccine dose. She said the department doesn't endorse or stand against any third-party websites but will be looking more into these sites in the future.
Bolouri said her site is registered as a for-profit company but is run by volunteers. She said she does not make any money off of the vaccination site. Bolouri said the site has secured 17 vaccination appointments for users since it launched last week.