NEW YORK - He's the man behind the website that's helped untold numbers of New Yorkers find vaccine appointments. Known as "TurboVax" and even "Vax Daddy," Huge Ma was given a big dose of appreciation on Tuesday.
"It's not complaining about what we could be doing better, it's pitching in," said New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, who honored Ma at an event outside of The Armory vaccination site in Washington Heights.
Yang praised Ma for picking up the federal and local governments' slack in creating TurboVax, a bot that constantly scans the websites of city and state vaccine sites and tweets out appointment availability.
"At a cost of $50, in less than two weeks, Huge did what the federal government and city and state governments failed to do with much greater resources," Rep. Ritchie Torres said.
"I just wanted to make the vaccine process simpler," Ma said. "I never expected it would help tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands get their vaccines right now."
TurboVax counts more than 170,000 Twitter followers and the website can reportedly get a million views in a day. But at the end of February, Ma shut the whole thing down for two days in protest of anti-Asian violence.
"I am taking a stand because I fear for my friends and family," he tweeted on Feb. 27.
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His calls to action inspired his followers to raise $292,000 for the community nonprofit Welcome to Chinatown.
"When I spoke out against anti-Asian violence, I just really wanted to speak from the heart," Ma said.
Ma, who was promised the key to the city and a job offer in the event of an Andrew Yang mayoralty, got his vaccine on April 1 but plans to keep helping others get their shots as long as he needs to.
"My message to everyone is your voice and your actions have power and somehow I'm standing here as evidence to that," he said.