Austin residents struggle to get vaccine appointment through APH system

You can call Callie Hester a good Samaritan who is trying to get her family and friends vaccinated.

"The friend I was trying to help out last night is blind and has an immune issue so I was trying to find him something hopefully here local just because it's hard to get around and pay for an Uber and things like that," said Hester.

Last week, she logged onto the Austin Public Health vaccine registration portal.

"Right at 5:45 I clicked in and immediately I was like 5,000 in the cue, and literally it had only been open for ten seconds. After about an hour and a half it said all the spots had been filled," she said.

She tried again Monday night, a week later.



"The same thing, clicked in shortly after it was supposedly open, and I was I think 7,000 in line out of 6,000," she said.

Then she got a message saying APH was dealing with technical issues.

"Around 11:00 pm they finally just said we are not able to do it tonight and they closed it down," she said.

Hester ended up finding luck in smaller surrounding counties. She was able to get an appointment for her friend in Williamson County. She said she will be driving him there since she is already vaccinated.

"I volunteered in Bell County and they've got drive-throughs for people, people hand checking people in. We did like 1,000 people in that small county in that one afternoon and Austin is just, seems like they aren't tapping into the resources we have," said Hester.

Austin Public Health released two statements Tuesday:

5 PM Update:

After working with our vendor throughout the day, Mar. 16, we have identified the issue that occurred during scheduling last night that came from a new program code. We will continue to test the system to have a successful first dose appointment release on Thursday evening, Mar. 18.

We have also determined that we are unable to see who was in the queue since it is maintained by a third-party system that does not collect user data. 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.

12:30 PM:

During the first dose appointment release yesterday, Mar. 15, we noticed issues of people being unable to move past the appointment confirmation page and a slower than usual scheduling process.

Our team worked with the vendor on several solutions such as letting fewer people out of the waiting room and into the scheduling system, creating a new site in the system for people to schedule, and pausing the waiting room to help those who were already in the scheduler complete the appointment confirmation process.

Ultimately, we had to end scheduling, which resulted in only 2,300 appointments being scheduled. We understand the frustrations and we worked into the morning and are continuing to address the problem with our vendor. We remain committed to correcting the issue for future appointment releases. In the meantime, we are working to proactively schedule people who made it past the waiting room and are also continuing to schedule through the Equity Line.

Hester feels tech groups in Austin should be able to step in to help.

"We are such a good city about philanthropy and work like that so it's amazing to me we are having so much trouble and there is not any of our tech groups who have said hey let us do this, we can do this in our sleep. Let us run that program for you," said Hester.