COVID-19 Vaccine

Problems Continue With Virginia Vaccination Registration

Shared links for appointments and duplicated names in the database contribute to the faulty system

NBC Universal, Inc.

Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine registration system continues to have issues.

Some people are using appointment slots that weren’t meant for them. Other people have duplicate appointments, which clutter the state’s database and leave dozens of appointment invitations to waste.

“So we send out a thousand emails. Come to find out, 400 of those are duplicates,” said Sean Johnson of the Prince William Covid-19 Information Center. “Now it takes a while for the system to tell you that to send out more invites, but now it’s 10 o’clock at night.”

Some slots remain deferred or empty, because vaccinated residents are getting notifications for appointments they don’t need.

“They’re sending invites to people who are already vaccinated,” said Jeff Katz, whose mother received an appointment after already being vaccinated. “Of course, they aren’t going to take the appointment, so it scares me those appointments aren’t being filled.”

The vaccinated population in D.C. may be overestimated in this map because some non-residents who work in D.C. are included in the totals.

Meanwhile, other appointment slots are being shared with people who are still ineligible.

“I clicked on the link and it let me go to the scheduling system,” Katz said. “I didn’t do it, 'cause I’m honest, but it’s there.”

The state’s appointment software, called PrepMod, sends an email invitation with a link and states that it isn’t shareable.

But people are sharing the links, therefore allowing dozens of those in a lower priority group who are not yet eligible to jump the line.

Another problem: When people get their shots in some of the pharmacy programs that operate on their own, there is no way to report that to clear names from the VDH database.

Before the state moved to a centralized database in mid-February, local health departments maintained their own registration lists to track appointments.

Fairfax County decided not to merge with the state. The Virginia Department of Health problems reinforce that decision.

“We just thought keeping that data closer to us in Fairfax County allowed us to real-time fix any potential problems that come up much quicker,” said Jeff McKay, the Fairfax County board chairman.

Dr. Danny Avula, the doctor heading Virginia’s vaccine program, said he’s aware of the need to purge the database of duplicates. The department is working with PrepMod to fix the issues.

Meanwhile, the state urges everyone who has preregistered to use a link sent out over the weekend to update their status, a step that could help fix the problems.

“We’ve been working every week to try to make it better, and I think we’re pretty close,” Avula said.

VDH sent News4 the following statement:

"The CDC developed VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) to help states and other government entities with vaccine scheduling and clinic management, and to allow organizations like employers or health departments to bulk upload individuals who are eligible to receive a vaccine. 

"Like others states, Virginia experienced problems with the scheduling feature in VAMS, so in late January VDH switched to PrepMod. This system worked for many uses, but its inability to create unique user links to schedule appointments led to confusion and frustration when users shared the links and ineligible people signed up for vaccinations only to be turned away or have their appointments canceled.   PrepMod also lacks the bulk upload feature, making it difficult to leveral lists of names pulled from the state pre-registration system.

"Virginia officials have been working with the vendor for several weeks to fix these issues, but the vendor has so far been unable to do so.

"As Virginia’s vaccine allocation projections quickly increased, VDH stepped in to develop an in-house scheduling solution. Two weeks later, the VASE (Vaccine Appointment Scheduling Engine) was piloted to help schedule appointments for the first Community Vaccination Clinics (CVCs), which are scheduled to open March 15. 

"For now, we will continue to use PrepMod to register individuals on site to ensure their information gets into our statewide system that tracks who has been vaccinated (VIIS-Virginia Immunization Information System). The VASE system potentially can be modified to replace PrepMod altogether in the coming weeks to months, and this expansion is currently being evaluated.'

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