Vaccine Helper

Meet Sam Keusch, the tech-savvy 13-year-old helping seniors get their Covid-19 vaccines

Courtesy of David Keusch

TEEN HELPER: Sam Keusch, a middle schooler from Scarsdale, New York, built a website that helped more than 3,800 people secure vaccine appointments.

Ther­e are now plenty of Covid-19 vaccines available for eligible people in the U.S. But early on in the vaccine rollout, high demand made it difficult for many people to access this potentially lifesaving medicine. Sam Keusch, a 13-year-old from Scarsdale, New York, saw his family and friends struggling to book Covid-19 vaccine appointments and wanted to help.

Sam realized that scheduling these hard-to-get online appointments was a little like playing a video game—something the seventh grader loves to do. That’s why, in January 2021, he created the Vaccine Helper website. The site allows him to track data and organize appointment requests—he received up to 200 a day at one point. Almost five months later, Sam has helped more than 3,800 people, mostly seniors, secure appointments to receive Covid-19 vaccines.

Science World spoke with Sam about designing his website, spreading the word about it to seniors in his community, and his plans for the future as more people get vaccinated.

What inspired you to create the Vaccine Helper website?

Everything started with my dad scheduling appointments for my grandparents. After that, he started helping other people he knew get appointments. I said I would help him. But the process was not organized whatsoever, so we created a website where people could submit all their information. Then it was a lot easier for me to find them appointments. We created the site with the help of a free form-building tool offered by Google, so it was pretty simple to set up. I did it in about an hour. No coding was involved, so I didn’t need to know any special computer programming languages.

Courtesy of David Keusch 

BOOK AN APPOINTMENT: New Yorkers can submit their information through a form on Sam’s website. Using this info, Sam will secure them an appointment. “As it turns out,” writes Sam on the site’s homepage, “getting appointments at the biggest vaccine sites in New York is easy if you know how to do it, you have patience, and you have the speed.”

How did you get the word out that you were setting up appointments?

It started with my elderly neighbor. We gave her my website address so we could help her find a vaccine appointment. She sent the site to her friends too. And from there, it just kept on spreading and spreading. In the beginning, it was kind of slow, and then requests just skyrocketed.

Has anyone who used your site reached out to you with any special stories?

Yes. One person told me about her new grandchild, who was born during the Covid-19 pandemic. After this woman finally received her vaccine, she was able to meet her grandchild for the first time. Another person I helped was an athlete who had earned a bronze medal in the Special Olympics. It was pretty cool to know I helped get them their vaccine.

And a lot of people have thanked me. Sometimes they offer money for the service. I don’t take donations. I tell them to give to a local food bank or the Jewish temple I attend instead. Whenever someone sends a donation to my temple, I get a little card letting me know—and I get a lot of them! That’s always amazing.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to keep Vaccine Helper going until I get zero new appointment requests. Fewer people are signing up now than they did at the beginning of the vaccine rollout. Now, it seems like most people can find appointments for themselves, which makes me happy. Some seniors, though, may not understand how the websites work, and they just want to make sure they actually get an appointment. I still get one or two requests a day, and I’m glad to get those people an appointment.