NY COVID vaccine website struggles as slots open up to the immunocompromised

NY COVID vaccine website struggles as slots open up to the immunocompromised

February 14, 2021

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New York State’s coronavirus vaccine sign-up website struggled with long wait times and tech troubles Sunday, as slots opened up to people with certain underlying conditions.

Many users reported the issues on social media Sunday morning as a mass of people flooded the State Department of Health’s “Am I Eligible Tool.” The issues appeared to ease as the day progressed.

“The good news: NY State website is updated w/ underlying conditions option for vaccine eligibility, and new appointments have been added,” tweeted Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the council’s health committee.

“The bad news: site is extremely glitchy and is crashing due to volume,” Levine wrote.

“Not a good start to this critical new phase.”

A state DOH spokesperson maintained that the agency’s screening tool and scheduling site were “functioning extremely well,” with an average of 350 appointments booked per minute as of Sunday afternoon.

As of 1 p.m., more than 876,000 people had used the “Am I Eligible Tool,” with over 100,000 appointments booked, the agency said.

“As expected, the site is experiencing a tremendous amount of volume after appointments were opened to New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions this morning,” DOH spokesperson Gary Holmes said in a statement.

But the agency admitted that the number of people who can schedule appointments at one time at each site is limited to balance the load on the system caused by increased demand.

Once that number is reached, users are sent to “online waiting rooms” that hold their place in line, before then being admitted to the scheduling system on a first-come, first-served basis.

Should both the scheduling system and the waiting room be full, the DOH urged people to return later and keep trying to book a slot, as new appointments are being rolled out throughout the day.

Some users reported wait times of between 20 and 40 minutes or other glitches.

“The NY state website is a disaster,” one person commented on Twitter. “I made it all the way through signing up and then got bumped off after clicking confirm.”

Another wrote: “Waited in ‘virtual [email protected] for an hour, then got ‘no appointments available.’”

“This is BULLSHIT! The State has had months to get this together. I’ve been trying ALL DAY! (since before 8am),” said one user. “This is not cute & not a joke. Get it FIXED!”

Others urged patience and suggested using a Chrome browser, instead of Safari.

“I secured a vaccine for my mom who has one the underlying conditions. The site is messy, but with patience I hope people can also get their appointments!” someone tweeted.

Another said: “I had to wait 25 minutes in line using my phone browser but finally got an appointment.”

Even at the best of times, New Yorkers have long griped about the state and city’s byzantine network of sign-up pages to get the shot.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously announced that New Yorkers with certain underlying conditions would be eligible for the vaccine starting Feb. 15.

The state’s screening tool and scheduling site launched a day early to allow people to start looking for and booking their appointments.

New appointments will be released on a rolling basis over the coming weeks, the state said.

Starting next week, local health departments will begin receiving vaccine allocations meant for people with comorbidities.

People must prove they are eligible using a doctor’s letter, medical information evidencing comorbidity or a signed certification.

The list of conditions for eligibility is:

  • Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Pulmonary disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis and 9/11-related pulmonary diseases
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down syndrome  
  • Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
  • Severe obesity (BMI > or = 40 kg/m2), obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
  • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Neurological conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • Liver disease

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