25 Investigates

25 Investigates: 2 million hits crashed state’s vaccine website, vendor says

BOSTON — As the state opened vaccine eligibility to nearly one million additional residents, the appointment website couldn’t handle the surge.

25 Investigates wanted to learn more about the company that’s operating the state’s vaccine rollout website and what went wrong.

Tiffany Tate is the CEO of a Maryland nonprofit. Her program, PrepMod, is used to run the Massachusetts vaccine website.

She told 25 Investigates the site got about two million hits in less than an hour Thursday morning and it crashed.

“There was an unprecedented, sudden, unexpected surge to the system,” Tate said.

PrepMod is supposed to provide a one-stop-shop for all the scheduling and paperwork required with a vaccine appointment. Massachusetts was the first state to use it to sign people up for COVID-19 shots.

“You have every right to be frustrated. We’re a public health organization, we believe in vaccinations, we have been here fighting alongside you with this pandemic,” Tate said. “And we we are very disappointed that you had that experience. So we’ve been working throughout the day, we brought the site to a level where more people could access it. And we have been working all day to make sure that this does not happen in the future.”

Tate says the state’s registration website was getting about a thousand visits a minute -- up until Thursday morning when people 65 and older and people with medical issues were allowed to sign up.

She says the visits skyrocketed to 70,000 a minute and it was too much for the site to handle.

“It typically gets 1,000 per minute. This morning, it got 70,000 per minute,” she said.

She said this is the first time something like this happened.

Tate told 25 Investigates she takes the blame for what happened and says her team is working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“In the first hour there were about there were more than 2 million inquiries to the system, when typically we would expect about 60,000,” she said.

She said 27 states are using PrepMod. 25 Investigates found at least six other states have reported problems.

Tate says her team is working around the clock to get it right.

“We did take it down for maintenance so that we could do some work on it,” she said. “But we can, throughout the day, people have been registering for appointments. So the system wasn’t completely unavailable.”

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