When coronavirus vaccines first became available, state health officials in Virginia turned to software recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to schedule appointments. But people complained that the software, called VAMS, was too confusing for older adults to use.
So the state switched to another system, PrepMod — but that had problems, too. Links sent to seniors for their appointments were reusable and found their way to Facebook, leading to one vaccination event in Richmond with dozens of overbookings. Some of those people threatened health care workers when they were turned away.
“It was a nightmare scenario,” said Ruth Morrison, the policy director for the Richmond and Henrico County health district. “People showing up confused, irate, thinking they had an appointment.”
State and local health departments around the country continue to face delays dispensing shots, in part because flaws remain in the appointment software tools like those used in Richmond. The problems threaten to slow the vaccine rollout even as supplies and distribution are picking up quickly across the country.
crashed early on. But the issues with the vaccine sites have an added sense of urgency because health officials are trying to vaccinate as many people as possible, as fast as possible.
On Thursday, President Biden said that his administration would send out technical teams to help states improve their websites. He also said the federal government would open a website by May 1 that would allow Americans to find out where the vaccine is available.
Many state officials have switched software providers, only to see little or no improvement. In California, tech mishaps have allowed ineligible people to snatch up appointments. Massachusetts residents have been stymied by crashing websites. Some North Carolina residents are eschewing online sign-ups entirely, instead engaging in a vaccine free-for-all.
PrepMod is being used by 28 states and localities, after many states shunned the $44 million VAMS tool built by Deloitte. Salesforce and Microsoft have developed vaccine software, too, with their customers being similarly frustrated. Smaller tech companies have pitched their own scheduling tools as well.
decided after the failed PrepMod trial that her county would try something else. “Some of these systems have strengths, but they all have weaknesses, too.”