A vial of the Moderna vaccine.
The District's phone and online system crashed on Thursday morning just as thousands of residents became newly eligible to sign up for 4,350 appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said this week that appointments would open at 9 a.m. to residents living in priority ZIP codes who are 65 or older, are 18 and older and have a qualifying medical condition ranging from asthma to cancer, or work in a number of essential jobs from child care to grocery stores.
But the demand almost immediately overwhelmed the city's online and phone system, with many callers reporting that they couldn't even get through on the phone. Others reported that even when they did get through online, the system wasn't updated to reflect the new eligibility criteria for pre-existing conditions and essential workers.
Bowser's office did not immediately offer comment on the problems with the vaccine signups. On Twitter, multiple D.C. councilmembers said they'd heard about the issues, and that crews were working to resolve them.
"We apologize for the issues this morning with the Vaccination Registration site. Due to the high volume of traffic on http://vaccinate.gov, you may experience delays," wrote D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. "IT engineers are working to resolve the issues as soon as possible."
Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George said she'd been made aware that the vaccine portal was rejecting residents with qualifying medical conditions under the age of 65. "@_DCHealth is working to address this issue. We're really sorry about the stress this is causing and will keep you updated," she wrote on Twitter.
Online, dozens of frustrated D.C. residents posted screenshots of the vaccination portal, reporting that the site denied them access to an appointment despite their qualifying medical conditions.
"I am nearly in tears after having to reload, reload, reload," one user wrote.
Throughout the course of the morning, some people posted on neighborhood listservs that they were able to secure appointments for their loved ones with qualifying medical conditions. But shortly after 10 a.m., DC Health posted on Twitter that all the available online appointments had been booked.
On Friday, Feb. 26, D.C. residents 18 and older with qualifying medical conditions – regardless of ZIP code – will be able to schedule a vaccine appointment online. DC Health estimates that will widen vaccine eligibility to 160,000 residents.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.