Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine site temporarily crashes

BOSTON — Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine appointment portal temporarily crashed Thursday morning as more than 1 million additional state residents became eligible to schedule a shot.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that of 70,000 available appointments about 20,000 were able to be filled in the morning.

“My hair’s on fire about the whole thing. I can’t begin to tell you how pissed off I am,” Baker said during an appearance on GBH radio. “It’s awful and it’s going to get fixed and I’m going to work very hard to make sure it never happens again.”

Baker said the administration had run through different scenarios to try to avoid problems with the vaccine portal. He said people in the administration are in the process are trying to determine what happened.

The state on Thursday for the first time began allowing those age 65 and older, people with two or more certain medical conditions, and residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing so sign up for a vaccine shot.

But it came with a warning that it could take up to a month to book an appointment.

RELATED: Newly eligible Massachusetts residents join scramble for vaccination appointments

“Due to extremely high traffic and volume, the VaxFinder tool and vaccine location websites are experiencing delays and other technical difficulties,” the state’s COVID-19 Command Center said in a statement. “We are working as quickly as possible to resolve these issues.”

Leominster resident Myriam Hebert was still fuming, hours after the technical problems kept her from scheduling an appointment.

“I am just frustrated. They have a system that doesn’t work,” Hebert said. “I called multiple times and one time they said, ‘Oh well, the website is a little slow’ blah blah blah. I don’t want to hear ‘blah blah blah.’ I want it to work. I want to be able to schedule an appointment.”

Erica Joyal in Marshfield is one of the lucky ones. She was able to book appointment Thursday afternoon after refreshing her browser “30 or 40 times.”

She has advice for anyone out there who was shut out.

“Keep trying, keep refreshing your screen. Don’t give up,” Joyal said.

The website problems drew rebuke from prominent Democrats.

“I am deeply disappointed that today so many Massachusetts residents are feeling frustration and anger on a day when we should be experiencing hope,” state Senate President Karen Spilka said in a statement.

She added: “The administration must deliver a better experience for our residents, who have already dealt with so much anxiety and disruption.”

The state Legislature has scheduled a hearing for next week to discuss the state’s bumpy vaccine rollout.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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