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Salt Lake County residents frustrated by problems with COVID-19 vaccine registration – Salt Lake Tribune


Jan 13, 2021

County mayor apologizes for failure of health department’s website.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Davis County School District began COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations for its teachers at the Davis County Legacy Center in Farmington on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Utahns ran into issues as they tried to sign up online to be vaccinated in Salt Lake County on Wednesday, when county residents ages 70 and older could begin booking appointments.

The Salt Lake County Health Department’s online registration for COVID-19 vaccinations ran into major problems on Wednesday morning, leaving older residents and their families frustrated and unhappy.

When registration opened on Wednesday, “tens of thousands of people simultaneously attempted to load the Salt Lake County Health Department’s COVID vaccination registration form; it could not handle that volume,” county officials wrote in a statement. “After working quickly with the system programmer, the form was up and making reservations before 9 a.m.”

As of 10 a.m., 15,042 people had signed up for 30,000 slots, according to the statement. There are about 70,000 residents ages 70 and older in Salt Lake County.

“That number of appointments is based on the number of doses we have been told we can expect to receive,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in the statement.

“We appreciate your patience. The health department will continue to work with the system programmer to prevent any such problems in the future,” the statement read.

The holdup annoyed residents who have been waiting for access to vaccine.

“It’s been very troublesome,” said Salt Lake City resident Jen Kious. “I’ve been waiting with bated breath to try to get my two 80-year-old parents vaccines. I got up at 8 a.m., and it hasn’t worked.”

Kenneth Sperling said that filling out most of the online form was “straightforward,” but “the problem is that when you get down to the bottom and you go to hit register, it says, ‘Select visit date.’ There is no box on the form for a visit date.”

“You get it all filled out, you hit submit, and then you’re stuck in cyberspace,” he said.

Kious ran into that same problem, and others. She said she forgot to enter her parent’s gender and was flagged — and when she tried to add it, all the other information she’d previously entered was erased.

Kious said she’s seen changes on the page as she’s tried to register. “They’re clearly trying to fix it.”

On a subsequent attempt to register, she said, the request for a visit date came up before the rest of the form, “but then when we got to the end and hit register, it gave an error statement saying, ‘Max number for this date.’ So it had obviously given us times that were already full.”

When she tried a different date, she received a message telling her she’d already registered. “So I actually don’t know if I’m registered or not. …. I have the utmost respect for the public health department. They have worked incredibly hard during this pandemic. I would not want to criticize them. But it’s very frustrating because I’ve been trying to hard to protect my parents.”

Diane Orr said the process has been “unclear” for seniors trying to register. “I’m 76, but I’ve been trying to help people in their 80s. They all tried to phone this morning, but, of course, it’s busy.”

She directed the seven octogenarians to the county website, but they’ve run into the same problems. “People are baffled. You fill out the form, and then there’s no information about where to go from there,” Orr said. “I would like to see people — especially in that age group — not get befuddled by all this.”

Sperling said he was able to register successfully by about 9:15 a.m.; Orr said she was continuing to run into problems through midday.

John Keahey, a former Salt Lake Tribune staffer, ran into similar problems. “When I finished the form, it would tell me that the time I selected was not available,” he said. “I went back two or three times in response to ‘not available’ messages and when I selected the third one, the form went away. I don’t know if I am registered or not. No indication.”

Keahey said that he believes he was able to register in a subsequent attempt shortly before 10 a.m., “but in the confusion, I didn’t record the date I finally chose that was accepted” — an issue Kious also ran into. Keahey is hoping the county health department will send email reminders.

The Salt Lake County Health Department’s
Facebook page is full of complaints about the online registration system. Some posted that they believe that they eventually got through — and received confirmation emails — but the comments include:

• “Terrible planning for this. They should have known that thousands of people would want to register for the vaccine yet the form does not work and the phone number just gives a busy signal.”

• “I am elderly and have serious chronic heart disease. Do better.”

• “Just praying it worked.”

• “It’s a complete mess. I had hoped Salt Lake County would have been more prepared.”

Vaccine scheduling appeared to be generally chaotic statewide as of Wednesday morning. The Weber-Morgan Health Department website would not open at all.

The Bear River Health Department website reported that its first clinic for patients age 70 and up is on Jan. 14 — before the Jan. 18 start date announced by the state — but the clinic was full and the department was not planning to announce more vaccination dates on Wednesday.

Utah County’s website reported it would begin scheduling vaccinations for patients age 70 and up until 6 p.m. Wednesday — but below that announcement was a link to a 70-plus vaccine clinic already happening on Wednesday, which also was full.

The Central Utah Health Department posted a link to register for a vaccine, but it requires a registration code to proceed, and no registration code was immediately visible on the website.

The Southeast Utah Health Department posted a link to a vaccine scheduler, which said all appointments had been filled as of Wednesday morning.

Health departments for Tooele County and the Tri-County area of northeast Utah both directed website users to the state’s general vaccine information page, which doesn’t allow patients to schedule vaccines. The San Juan County Health Department website, listed by Google as having an expired security certificate, also linked back to the state’s website.

Only in Wasatch County, which was scheduling appointments by phone, and Summit County, which was scheduling via email, did attempts to schedule vaccine not reach a dead end.

The Tribune will update this developing story.


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