Frustrations persist over getting a vaccination appointment in NY

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NEW YORK — While there is optimism that vaccine supply and demand will balance out in a few more weeks, frustrations over getting an appointment persisted Monday and issues on the state’s website for appointment booking has made many weary.

Caroline Laby-Bosniak, who lives in Cedarhurst on Long Island, said she found the entire process frustrating, especially since she is a teacher educating students on Far Rockaway in person. She was back at the Javits Center for her second dose on Monday, but said she had the best luck with the state’s hotline.

As of Monday, 10 million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and while locations are ready to take on the foot traffic, the supply just isn’t there yet and, apparently, the state website wasn’t ready for the influx either.

“There were many people who got appointments yesterday and that’s wonderful, but there were many more who did not succeed even after hours of trying,” said City Council Chair of the Health Committee Mark Levine.

Inundated by web traffic, New York State’s site to secure a vaccination appointment put many people into a waiting room Sunday. Just last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Secretary, Melissa DeRosa, warned of this possibility.

An NYS Department of Health spokesperson said the state’s screening tool and scheduling site have functioned “extremely well despite high volume.” The official said nearly 1,646,000 used the tool and 250,924 appointments were booked in the 24-hour period after appointments opened for New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions.

“We have been cautioning New Yorkers that demand would be high, and to help in scheduling we added online waiting rooms to each site to smooth the traffic flow,” the spokesperson said. “As we’ve shown in recent days, our distribution network is firing on all cylinders, and as the supply of vaccine expands we stand ready to get more shots into people’s arms.”

It wasn’t just the number of people on the hunt for appointments, however. Levine heard reports of the site not working on mobile devices, access only through Google Chrome and what’s known as incognito mode. All of it, together, he said, goes against the very issue health officials pushed for from the very beginning and that’s equal access for all.

“There’s certainly a hunger games like fight to get an appointment and the internet has allowed people to play from all over the state and beyond and it’s crowded out people who live in the neighborhoods,” said Levine.

A council hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss legislation introduced recently by Levine to streamline the appointment process and bring it to one site, rather than hunting and searching through multiple sites.

In the meantime, concern over variants of the coronavirus continue. The governor confirmed a patient is being treated with the South African variant at a New York City hospital. The patient was transported to New York City from Connecticut.

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