Only 50,000 appointments available for COVID-19 vaccine, no problem, secrets to booking

BOSTON — For some people trying to book an appointment for a COVID vaccine, it didn’t take long before a 71-minute wait time turned into 1,035 minutes.

“I ended up getting an application error message and I was just bounced out altogether,” said Hanover resident John Connolly, 67, who was trying to get an appointment for himself and his wife. “It was 15 minutes, then it was going down to like 12, 10, then it’s started bouncing around 16, 22, 4,700 and 1,853, and then it hit 62,040 minutes.”

Connolly says this went on for hours and he walked away from the COVID vaccine sweepstakes empty-handed.

While there was a lot of frustration, there were 50,000 people who came out with an appointment.

“I actually had Boston 25 on in the background all morning while I was doing this in-between work refreshing and it was around 10:30 or 10:45, it came on there that all 50,000 doses were gone,” said Lowell resident Megan Jordan. “I just kind of resigned myself and said ‘All right.’ I decided to refresh one last time and the March 7 dose had opened up and I just didn’t even look at the date. I just grabbed what I could and quickly filled it out.”

Tip #1 from Megan Jordan: Start early and be persistent, but even then there are no guarantees.

“I actually got woken up by a windstorm at 4 a.m. So I started checking then,” said Jordan. “Things really picked up a little after 7 a.m., when the Danvers site opened up some slots and I clicked on that super-fast and within a second and I was 39,508th in line.

Sometimes when people got through, the site went from hundreds of available slots to zero.

“There just seems to be this disconnect, these systems are not in sync as far as talking to each other,” said Connolly. “I can see it happened maybe once or twice but this was happening pretty much all morning.”

Tip #2 may help for next time: Try this Twitter feed called Vaccinetime which tweets out openings as they become available.

Tip #3 comes from its creator Dan Cahoon.

“I think that one of the more effective strategies is probably picking a time slot but one that is not the first thing that you see,” said Cahoon. “It’s not the first thing in the morning or the very first day that’s available.”

“I did exactly that, I went to the very last page,” said Jordan. “I got in and I would only click refresh on that last page and then when it opened up, I just said I’m taking whatever I can get. I didn’t look at a time slot. I literally didn’t even know for certain what venue I was selecting.”

Jordan says she got three error messages during the process, but she sat there patiently, didn’t click anything and they eventually went away, but for everyone else, the wait continues.

When asked what he’s going to do now, Connolly said: “I’m going to continue, you know, randomly going on there from time to time. But you know, I don’t have the patience to spend hours on end trying to get a vaccine appointment.”

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