Website problems slow coronavirus vaccine rollout

Florida is the epicenter of website issues, as patients struggle with malfunctioning sites and hackers

COVID-19 vaccine container and syringe

Coronavirus vaccination websites are buckling under intense volumes as citizens try to register for appointments. Some local health authorities are even turning to event registration site Eventbrite to cope with the demand, leading hackers to create spoof registration pages.

Most reports are emerging from several Florida counties. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Broward County’s vaccination website kept going offline over the weekend, forcing officials to notify people of its status via Twitter.

Hillsborough County’s website also crashed on Monday, the first day of vaccinations, as officials warned of more delays to come. 

Pinellas County's vaccination site failed as seniors tried to register for shots. "At this time, we are suspending registrations by both phone and online. Updates will be coming," public health officials tweeted, drawing anger from citizens.

Counties have partnered with event registration company Eventbrite to handle registrations in some areas, but that also caused issues. The Tampa Bay Times warned of fake Eventbrite sites that charged for vaccinations then sent Pasco County seniors to vaccination stations without appointments. Pasco officials tweeted a warning about the scam.

Although most reports center on Florida, there have been isolated issues in other areas, too. In Texas, Harris County Public Health had to take down its vaccination website after allowing non-qualifying residents to sign up for the vaccine by mistake.

In some cases, even employee vaccination-registration sites suffered outages. Massachusetts General Brigham health care system had to take its vaccination registration site offline last month after a surge in employee demand.

A lack of leadership from the federal government has left local governments putting together their own registration websites to handle the fastest vaccination rollout in history, sources at US Digital Response told the Washington Post. The nonprofit, which assists governments nationwide with tech support, has organized volunteers to help local governments cope with the load. It’s developed a COVID-19 vaccination template website to help public health agencies roll out information websites in just a few hours.

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