Glitches hinder Chicagoans’ efforts to get COVID-19 vaccine via Zocdoc

Would-be patients reported encountering glitches when they tried to book vaccine appointments via Zocdoc for the mass vaccination site at the city’s United Center.  

The site, the first FEMA vaccination location to partner with Zocdoc, can potentially vaccinate 6,000 people per day.  

Part of the confusion seemed to stem from questions around eligibility: Less than an hour before appointment slots were set to open to eligible Illinoisans, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that only Chicagoans would be allowed to use Zocdoc to get an appointment there.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

Chicago is the first city to use Zocdoc’s vaccine scheduler tool to assist with the COVID-19 inoculation rollout. For the most part, reports of glitches have been minimal since the partnership’s announcement this past month – until the United Center opened up appointments.  

According to local news outlet Block Club, the first half hour of signups, available only to those older than 65, were marred by technical glitches.   

After signups expanded to all eligible Chicagoans on Sunday, the issues reportedly continued: Zocdoc crashed, no open appointments were shown and verification codes were not sent.  

Some individuals also said their appointments were canceled without explanation.  

Although Zocdoc did not respond to requests for comment from Healthcare IT News, a spokesperson told a local NBC affiliate that “on Sunday afternoon, some users experienced difficulty booking a vaccination at the United Center.  

“Zocdoc identified and resolved the root issue in less than one hour, and Chicago residents were successfully able to book vaccinations, reaching peak booking rates of more than 750 bookings per minute,” the statement continued. “Due to high demand, our current allotment of United Center vaccine availability was quickly fully booked.”  

Local officials initially said all 110,000 appointments had been booked, but then rolled that back to 40,000.  

They also said that the shift to only allowing Chicago residents to sign up came amidst concerns around equity: Only 37% of the people who had signed up for appointments were from the city.  

Over the past week, nearly 60% of doses reportedly went to Black or Latinx residents, according to the city. Given the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on communities of color, and the lagging vaccination rollout among Black and Latinx people, officials pointed to continued outreach as a priority.  

THE LARGER TREND  

Considering the multiple strategies state and local governments are employing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, it seems somewhat inevitable that some would encounter problems.  

To name a few high-profile recent incidents, New Jersey blamed Microsoft this past month for weeks of rollout glitches, and IT issues led to an Arizona slowdown early in the year.  

Some individuals have taken simplification matters into their own hands: A Massachusetts-based athenahealth developer created a vaccination website for the state while on maternity leave to make it easier for eligible individuals to find appointments.  

“The response has been greater than I could have imagined. There’s clearly such a need for a tool like this, and so, once people got wind of my website, it just flew around different social media networks,” Adams told Healthcare IT News this February.   

ON THE RECORD  

“What we do now determines how equitable and inclusive our post-COVID recovery will be,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference Tuesday. “That’s why we must continue to do everything in our power and work together to blunt this crisis.”

 

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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