After technical struggles, Austin Public Health to release more vaccine appointment slots March 18

A volunteer works at Delco Activity Center on March 13, helping Texas residents receive COVID-19 vaccines. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
A volunteer works at Delco Activity Center on March 13, helping Texas residents receive COVID-19 vaccines. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

A volunteer works at Delco Activity Center on March 13, helping Texas residents receive COVID-19 vaccines. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Early in March, Austin Public Health simplified its process for individuals to sign up for first-dose vaccine appointments, releasing all the time slots for the entire week on Monday night.

However, on March 15 the process was anything but simple for those who signed onto the portal hoping to get scheduled for a vaccine.

"Our scheduling system has run into technical issues resulting in massive delays tonight," APH tweeted at 11:41 p.m. March 15. "After working with our vendor for multiple hours, it appears there is no immediate fix we can make. Unfortunately, this means we must end scheduling."

Some 2,300 people were able to receive appointments March 15, so APH will once again open the window for appointments March 18. The public health organization said it identified the issue, which came from a new program code, and expects to have a successful appointment release the evening of March 18.

Public health officials have spoken throughout the pandemic about technology issues impeding progress in fighting COVID-19.

"I think one of the biggest failures of public health across the country has been its investment in information technology," Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said March 5 in a news conference. "One of the biggest lessons learned, as a federal government, as a state government and as a local government is we need to look harder at revolutionizing IT infrastructure."

Technology is also part of the reason APH has not yet allowed individuals ages 50-64 to register for vaccine appointments in its system, although a city spokesperson said those individuals should be eligible before more appointments are released March 18.

High demand for vaccines in the Austin area means there were hundreds of thousands of people who already qualified for vaccines waiting in APH's system when the state opened Phase 1C of its rollout plan March 15. However, APH said it would also take time to make the technical modifications necessary to allow those ages 50-64 to register. On March 13, APH said individuals who are part of Phase 1C phase would be able to register "in the coming days."

APH is one of dozens of vaccine providers in Travis County and around the state, which also include private companies such as H-E-B and CVS. More information is available on where to find COVID-19 vaccines here.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Austin Public Health expects to open appointments to individuals in Phase 1C before appointments are opened March 18.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at [email protected]


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