NY COVID-19 vaccine appointment website overwhelmed as eligibility expands

COVID-19 vaccine vials

Vials of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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NEW YORK — Millions of New Yorkers with health conditions that leave them at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 could theoretically sign up for appointments at state-run vaccination sites starting Sunday, but a lack of vaccine supply meant many were frustrated in their search for a shot.

New York’s COVID-19 vaccine website was overwhelmed by a flood of newly eligible residents trying to make appointments Sunday morning.

Vaccine eligibility will officially expand to include people with certain comorbidities and underlying conditions on Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Saturday that folks can use the state’s “Am I Eligible” web tool beginning Sunday to determine whether they can get the COVID-19 vaccine and make an appointment.

However, soon after the “Am I Eligible” tool updated at 8 a.m. Sunday, the appointment website appeared to crash.

While the website showed appointments available at several state-run vaccine sites, people who clicked to schedule one were brought to a page that stated: “Due to high volume, appointments can’t be made at this time for this location. Please try again later.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office told PIX11 News the website worked as it should, but the high demand for appointments caused some users to end up on the “high volume” page.

The website is designed to only allow a certain number of people to schedule appointments at one time to ensure the system doesn’t become overwhelmed and crash, the spokesman said.

When that number is reached, additional users are placed in a virtual “waiting room” to access the scheduling system. If both the scheduling system and the waiting room hit maximum capacity, users will receive the “high volume” message, according to the spokesperson.

More appointments at state-run sites are expected to open on a rolling basis in the coming weeks, according to the governor’s office. Residents who weren’t able to make an appointment on Sunday should continue to check for new availability this week.

Seven million New Yorkers, including health care workers and people over 65, were already eligible for vaccinations under previous state rules. About 3 million people over 16 with comorbidities will become eligible starting Monday.

Cuomo said on Saturday that while New York has the infrastructure to administer the vaccines, the state still does not have enough supply despite recent increases in weekly allotments from the federal government.

“We have the infrastructure in place to get shots in arms as quickly as possible, we just need the supply to do it, and with a new leader in Washington we’re finally beginning to get more supply, allowing us to open vaccination appointments up to New Yorkers with comorbidities starting next week,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We can almost see the light at the end of this dark tunnel, and it is critical that all New Yorkers continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and act responsibly so that we can defeat this beast once and for all.”

According to the state Health Department, anyone with a qualifying comorbidity or underlying condition must provide one of the following documents to prove they are eligible:

  • Doctor’s letter
  • Medical information evidencing comorbidity
  • Signed certification

As of Saturday morning, the state had administered 90% of the total first doses it received from the federal government. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 2,129,135 first doses received
  • 1,923,259 first doses administered
  • 1,129,450 second doses received
  • 772,510 second doses administered

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