COVID source shout-out: Goodnight Turbovax

So long, farewell, I hope we never have to meet again: the sun is setting for the incredibly hardworking bot (As of May 15 it is still operational, and it is not clear when the bot will be retired for good.) New York City has opened more walk-in vaccine centers and as more people get vaccinated, and the bot’s creator, Huge Ma, tweeted that “It’s been a real honor to serve all of you but the need for TurboVax has come and gone.” The site has seen decreasing traffic since at least mid-April, as Ma tweeted on April 15 that there had been a 70% drop in bot traffic from the week before.

The bot (and its creator) became somewhat of a local legend when vaccine appointments in NYC were harder to find than an under-$900k Brooklyn brownstone. They drew attention from outlets ranging from The Guardian to The New York Times to a particularly notable profile of Ma in The Cut—making “Vax Daddy” (or “Vaddy”) a household name for many engrossed in COVID-19 news. Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has even courted Ma’s endorsement. (To date, he has not endorsed a candidate, though he has endorsed more protected bike lanes.)

Ma has used his platform to advocate for AAPI folks and to denounce anti-Asian racism. On February 27, he suspended the bot as a form of protest as anti-Asian hate crimes rose across the country. (It was restored on March 1.) His continuing advocacy and fundraising for Welcome to Chinatown, a nonprofit providing resources for small businesses in the Chinatown area of Manhattan, has raised $200,000, according to his Twitter.

We here at the CDD salute Ma’s incredible work, and personally, I’m particularly grateful for Turbovax for getting one of my friends vaccinated, posting really cute pictures of his cat MaoMao, and getting Bowen Yang back on Twitter for a brief spell. And amidst the sentimentality, there’s a smidge of good news: while the actual bot is being retired, Ma will still be tweeting from the @Turbovax account “bc it’s fun.”

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