Austin Public Health reopens vaccine appointments Thursday, changes expected for the website


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health reopened its online COVID-19 vaccine signup portal Thursday at 5:45 p.m. By 10 p.m., all of the appointments were filled.

This comes after the latest bout of technical issues this week. APH officials say they’ve been testing new code following Monday’s portal malfunction that caused a backlog of people trying to sign up for appointments. Eventually APH shut the portal down completely.

“They believe they identified what the problem was, and we hope the rollout this [Thursday] evening for the remaining appointments will be what we saw last week,” said Matt Lara, APH spokesperson.

APH released 4,500 appointments at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The pre-queue for the first dose started at 5:45 p.m. By 7:30 Thursday night, about 1,100 appointments were filled, with approximately 13,000 people in the queue.

APH says there are 294,000 pre-registered people currently eligible to receive the vaccine in its system (including Phase 1C).

APH says it’s making system changes in the coming week that will allow users to report if they received a vaccine from another provider. This will help staff get a more accurate picture of how many still need a shot.

“We’ve been working on a complete redesign of the system to make navigation, the language and the buttons more clear,” Lara said.

This all comes as the department pilots its first drive-thru operation at the Toney Burger Center. About 1,500 registered people will be vaccinated at the site, but APH says it has the capacity to serve 3,000 people per day.

As for those who waited for hours on Monday, APH doesn’t know who was in the queue, so people had to sign on and try again Thursday evening. APH says a third party manages the queue, and it doesn’t store information.

When the site crashed Monday, 9,000 people were waiting to book about 6,000 appointments. The portal opened at 6 p.m. About an hour later, APH said the site was “experiencing some technical issues,” and then just before midnight, the agency shut it down.

“We understand this is frustrating, and we are working to proactively schedule those who had made it past the waiting room and were unable to confirm their appointments due to technical issues,” APH said in a tweet Tuesday. “We are also continuing to schedule through the Health Equity Line.”

Since the vaccine rollout began, APH has had plenty of problems with its online signup portal. KXAN investigators reported in February “high simultaneous demand” caused most of the problems that began in January with the website, run by the company Salesforce. Internal city memos showed officials knew about the issues, saying there were “frustrations within the community,” and they were working with Salesforce to fix the issues.

Simply logging in to the site was an issue for a while in January until the city came up with a solution.

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