Tens of thousands of Salt Lake County residents aged 70 and older tried to get coronavirus vaccine appointments Wednesday morning.
Many of them hit a wall, saying the website crashed or wouldn’t give them appointment dates.
One of the people struggling to get appointments was Roberta Lovell of Salt Lake City. Like a lot of people 70 and older, the past several months have felt a little isolating for Lovell.
“You see that there are a lot of things going on, and you would like to be there, but you go no, 'it’s not worth it,'" Lovell said.
So she’s been waiting on the vaccine. But when she logged on the the county website to make her appointment...
We got started, and then it would just stop. It would crash," she said.
So she tried calling.
“It was busy, busy, busy. You couldn’t get through."
Eventually, Lovell said she and her husband gave up trying.
The county health department says the problem was tens of thousands of people logging on at once, but they were able to correct it within the hour.
“They were able to respond quickly and add two new servers to our effort this morning," said Gary Edwards, the health department director.
When 2News spoke with the health department Tuesday, they anticipated high call volumes and high demand. Wednesday, we asked why additional servers weren't added to the system before this morning.
County Mayor Jenny Wilson said part of the problem was new CDC guidance received last night instructing health departments to no longer hold back second doses of the vaccine and instead make more available for first doses.
“That created a data lag, and I frankly think we underestimated the amount of multiple attempts within a family unit," Wilson said.
There are 70,000 people over 70 in Salt Lake County. As vaccinations are opened up to more people, 2News asked, is the department confident the four servers being added will be enough to meet the website demand?
Edwards said he wasn’t yet sure.
“I asked that question about 45 minutes ago; they said we are evaluating that and will have that answer by the end of the week," Edwards said.
For now, the county was able to get some 25,000 people over 70 scheduled for appointments, including Roberta Lovell and her husband, which Lovell said was "a big relief."
Lovell was concerned that her appointment, scheduled for a day in February, might end up falling on a snow day. Edwards said he expects if inclement weather occurs, appointments would be rolled into another day.
As far as website concerns, Wilson also said the hope is when the general population is able to get vaccinated, there will be more vaccines available, which should help with the limitations on scheduling.
Edwards said the system was tested before it went live Wednesday morning, but the department staff testing the website wasn’t near the number of people trying to access it this morning.
2News asked the Utah County Health Department if they felt their website would be able to meet the scheduling demand.
Aislynn Thomas, department spokesperson, says the Utah County Information Systems Department has been working since June to build and test “an entirely new and customized solution."
Thomas said the platform is able to handle very high spikes in demand. The system has been in use the past three days and, despite time slots filling, “extremely quickly," they haven’t seen any significant problems.
The health department said those who sign up and don't receive an email confirmation should email lmmsSuppport@slco.org.