AUSTIN, Texas - A UT spokesperson says thousands of people scheduled invalid COVID-19 vaccination appointments at the university’s Gregory Gymnasium Monday using a shared link. They were able to register using a single link because individualized links were "eased" to expedite registration following severe winter weather.
The mishap caused a blocks long line, delay, and confusion for those with and without valid appointments.
"There’s a lot of young people in line that don’t follow the 1B rule." noted Sharon Harrison, who waited hours for her appointment.
J.B. Bird, a UT spokesperson, says an active scheduling link had been sent to someone who was approved to schedule an appointment. Their link was shared through text, email and social media with "false information about vaccine availability."
"There were some people that got information online or their friends told them and they went online and signed up because they were told that they had lots of vaccines." said Katie Jones, who also waited hours for her vaccine appointment.
Thousands of people were able to schedule appointments using the single link, but the appointments were not valid.
"The scheduling system has a unique login capability, with links individualized to specific patients; but due to the recent and extended weather emergency, and its impact on vaccination distribution due to travel restrictions and power interruptions, this unique link functionality was eased to allow for quicker registration. This easing of individualization functionality meant that the link was temporarily vulnerable to being shared, despite the instructions against such sharing included in the registration process, rapidly overstressing our physical capacity. The online tools that strictly limit each registration invitation to its recipient have been reengaged, which should reduce the likelihood of scheduling issues going forward." Bird explained.
Bird says the appointments were not valid because those who used the link failed to register with UTHA, did not receive a personalized email from the university asking them to schedule, and in some cases, did not meet current vaccination criteria.
Read his full statement below:
"Over the weekend, we became aware of an active scheduling link that was inappropriately shared widely through unofficial networks with false information about vaccine availability and who was eligible to sign up for appointments at UT Health Austin this week. This resulted in thousands of individuals signing up for appointments who did not follow the UTHA registration process, did not meet the criteria, and did not receive a personalized email from the university asking them to schedule. All appointments scheduled in this manner are in the process of being canceled; however, some individuals have showed up on-site today, resulting in longer than normal lines. UTHA is actively working to implement a technological solution to prevent this from occurring again in the future and anticipates having this in place later this week."