coronavirus vaccine

DC Residents Unable to Book Vaccines Again Saturday; New Website Planned, Official Says

DC Council Member Christina Henderson said a new website "should launch soon"

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A flood of D.C. residents again reported they couldn’t book vaccine appointments on Saturday after the website returned an error message.

The vaccination registration website appeared to completely crash soon after those appointments were set to become available at 9 a.m.

D.C. scheduled an extra vaccine sign-up session on Saturday in response to residents' complaints about technical issues earlier this week. On Thursday, residents in priority zip codes who were newly eligible to get shots couldn’t sign up. DC Health apologized and blamed technical problems.

On Friday, another round of technical issues stopped people from registering for their shots.

News4 received stories from dozens of D.C. residents on Saturday frustrated over repeated technical issues. Many said the web portal shut them out, and they couldn’t get through on the phone or got disconnected.

The website returned an error for many. However, it appears some people were able to book appointments: D.C. health said before 10 a.m. that the 3,500 appointments made available were filled.

D.C.'s vaccine registration website returned this error message when News4 tried to access it Saturday morning

“The closest I’ve gotten is to hit confirm on an appointment only to have it taken away — other than that just errors. System clearly overwhelmed,” one person said on Twitter.

“It is truly a real life hunger games [sic],” another person wrote, referencing the dystopian novel where children fight each other in a life-or-death battle.

DC Health didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the problems.

A Maryland woman who had made a vaccine appointment and her husband, who are both senior citizens, were still turned away. Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports on how it happened.

D.C. is set to open up more appointments for eligible residents in priority zip codes on March 4. Eligible groups include residents over 65, many essential workers and people aged 16-64 who have a qualifying medical condition.

D.C. Council Member Christina Henderson said Friday that another website is under development.

The new website will allow people to pre-register, then be informed when it’s time for them to book an appointment, Henderson said.

“This will help address volume issues. My colleagues and I ask weekly about its progress — it should launch soon,” she said.

Henderson also said that D.C. doesn't have enough vaccines for everyone who wants and needs them. Next week, the city expects 9,360 doses. On Friday, more than 36,000 people logged on to try and snag one of 4,300 appointments, she said.

D.C. council members have been barraged with complaints about the portal and phone system. They are trying to get answers about why it's not working and when it might be fixed.

D.C. Chief Technology Officer Lindsey Parker acknowledged the frustrations on Twitter Friday afternoon, saying the issue is the number of doses the District receives. She said more than 36,000 people got online at the same time to claim one of the 4,350 appointments made available. Those appointments were booked in a half hour.

Parker offered these tips for trying to make an appointment online:

  • Only use the browsers Chrome and Firefox, or Safari on a Mac
  • Refresh your browser if you run into trouble
  • Try a different browser if you’re still having trouble
  • Try clearing your browser’s cache

D.C. expanded eligibility for vaccines this week to residents aged 16-64 with chronic conditions. Thousands of appointments were made available Thursday morning to residents in priority zip codes, but numerous people with qualifying conditions couldn’t book.

Other groups could register, and the available appointments were quickly filled.

DC Health apologized for the confusion and frustration.

“We apologize for the issues with the vaccination portal this morning. The District’s COVID-19 vaccination appointment portal did not perform as expected due to a technical review failure that resulted in eligible residents with a qualifying medical condition being unable to register. As the IT team worked to stabilize the website due to heavy traffic, there were delays in finding and fixing the issue with the eligibility criteria."

"We know how stressful of a time this is, and we regret that this unfortunate situation occurred on a day when many of our residents with chronic health conditions were newly eligible for vaccination appointments,” the statement read.

Appointments can be scheduled by visiting vaccinate.dc.gov or calling 1-855-363-0333.

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