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BIS students create website to help senior citizens schedule COVID vaccines

Published on February 22, 2021

BIS students create website to help senior citizens schedule COVID vaccines

Project team
Top row (Left to Right): Professor Alex Citurs, Shannon Miller (NBC Responder Reporter), junior Jon Shooner. Middle row (Left to Right): senior Gary Kozlowski, sophomore Hunter Vetterkind, Sue Starkey (Director of Northeast District Department of Health). Bottom row (Left to Right): senior Leo Vargas and senior Luis Serrano-Villa.

The ongoing task of vaccinating upwards of 300 million Americans is a daunting prospect as our nation seeks to get beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating online vaccination registration systems is no less daunting, especially for senior citizens and others not used to processing transactions on the Internet.

In response to this concern, Susan Starkey, director of the Northeast District of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, reached out to Eastern Connecticut State University’s Business Information Systems (BIS) program in October, asking if BIS students could help address the district’s database and information system needs.  

As the COVID-19 vaccination implementation plan moved beyond healthcare workers and nursing home residents, seniors and other people lacking computer experience struggled desperately through multiple systems to register and schedule their vaccination appointments.

Noting that staff were spending two to four hours per person on phone support, Starkey’s priority changed to focusing on helping get people scheduled for vaccinations.  It became apparent that a simple user-friendly website was needed to help some people navigate the vaccination appointment scheduling process.

Before Connecticut residents and workers can use the Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS), they are required by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to pre-register through the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s “Pre-registration Portal.”  Only then, after receiving an invitation email to VAMS from the CDC, can a person use the VAMS system to schedule their vaccination appointment. 

As the BIS students, mentored by Professor Alex Citurs, developed a COVID-19 Vaccination Appointment Scheduling website, they were challenged by the dynamically changing CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health web portals and documentation. They also needed to find a way to bridge the technology proficiency gap of some users. 

website screenshot

To create the vaccine appointment scheduling tool, Eastern’s BIS team adopted a “rapid agile project approach” to design, develop and launch the website quickly.  The goal was to make the vaccination scheduling process clear, concise and logical for people not used to navigating the Internet, and the children, grandchildren and friends trying to help them.

The project team started working in mid-January with the goal of streamlining and simplifying the vaccination appointment process. The students aligned their individual strengths to related project tasks. In addition to meeting several times a day during the week on Zoom, the team also met regularly with Professor Citurs and their client, Susan Starkey. The result was a user-friendly website featuring visual cues and easy-to-use dropdown menus, including Spanish-language versions.

Gary Kozlowski ’21, the primary site developer of the project, said, “I enjoyed working in a small team because this is how most of the developers work now. We operated in a very agile environment using communication platforms such as Zoom, email, text messaging and phone calls. It was interesting to work in an environment where we would plan, design, develop and test the product, release it and then get feedback from users to make it even better.”

Starkey said the website created by the BIS students “is available to everyone — including those who want to help their family and friends use technology to make a [vaccination] appointment. The format is simple to follow, and it includes instructions in Spanish. I turned to Eastern because of the excellent reputation of the Business Information Systems program and have been so impressed by all they have done to help.”

Hunter Vetterkind ’23, who helped organize the website, said, “We organized the information in a sensible manner to optimize readability of the content, as well ensure a logical sequence of the step-by-step instructions.” Jonathan Shooner ’22 reviewed the code for the website to ensure it ran efficiently. Students Luis Serrano ’21 and Leonard Vargas ’21 crafted Spanish translations for the website, with Vargas soliciting feedback from his family.

Serrano noted, “One of the most interesting projects I have done has been making this website to help the elderly get registered for the COVID- vaccine. It is wonderful to know the impact it can have on the Windham community and Connecticut.”

The site logically moves people through pre-registering for VAMS with the Connecticut Department of Public Health portal, authentication using personal emails, and scheduling the appointment in VAMS. “I recommend the online VAMS system because it is a quick, convenient, self-service method that is available 24/7,” said Starkey. “VAMS lets people make vaccine appointments at participating locations across the state.” 

Team members included Gary Kozlowski ’21, primary site developer; Hunter Vetterkind ’23, team data/information organizer; Leo Vargas ’21, instructional video creator; Jon Shooner ’22, code reviewer; and Luis Serrano-Villa ’21, Spanish instruction creator. All are BIS majors, with Shooner double-majoring in Computer Science.

To access the website developed by Eastern’s BIS students, visit

Written by Ed Osborn