State Website for Seniors to Sign Up for Vaccine Crashes Immediately

Gov. Tim Walz called the federal government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine an “abject failure.” But that doesn’t begin to describe the Walz administration’s botched attempt today to make the vaccine available to Minnesotans 65 and up.

The state’s website to sign-up for the vaccine crashed almost as soon as it went up. A cryptic apology on the website did little to alleviate the frustrations of seniors left to ponder when, if ever, they’ll get through.

We have  experienced an extremely high volume of calls and traffic within our scheduling portal. We have closed access to new users in order to work through a significant queue of people  seeking vaccines. Thank you for your patience.

The Star Tribune offered a play-by-play of the latest embarrassing episode of the state government’s ill-fated attempts to deliver services online. Remember MNLARS?

Online registration launched at noon but was halted within an hour due to “extremely high” traffic, according to the website. A state official said as of 2 p.m. that 4,171 of roughly 6,000 appointments had been booked, and that the website had been receiving 2,000 hits per second and peaked at 10,000 hits per second.

Hundreds who tried to get through on the state hotline were held hostage on hold forever.

Some people tried calling the state registration hotline and were greeted with auto messages saying, “your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Others received “502 Bad Gateway” error messages on the registration website, or at least proceeded to an online waiting room where they — indeed — waited.

“I sat there for more than 45 minutes, nothing happened,” said Clifford Brown, 79, of Minneapolis via e-mail. “I tried to refresh my screen and got the message that the application was ‘offline for maintenance’. Later when I tried to connect again I received the message ‘application error’. While I was waiting, I tried the dial in lines to no avail.”

The breakdown happened within moments of the state sign-up site going live.

At the strike of noon, seniors called the Star Tribune and reported problems. John Wodele, 73, of Minneapolis, said he was sympathetic as someone involved in state government leadership in the past, but wondered if the hassle was worth the payoff.

“Why put us through this call in or online scheduling for 12,000 shots,” he said. “Nothing but frustration — one doesn’t answer and the other doesn’t work.”

If and when the problems get fixed, it will almost certainly be too late for the seniors who finally get through with the available openings virtually certain to be filled–what you might call “an abject failure.”