The Massachusetts vaccination finder website was "experiencing technical difficulties," Thursday morning as about one million people became newly eligible to get the vaccine for the first time.
A high volume of traffic is expected to have contributed to the crash, according to Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel.
"I know there's frustration to this and I don't know the exact IT issue as to why it crashed, but we are working to resolve it," Bharel said in an interview with NBC10 Boston. "I asked individuals to continue to check back and it should be resolved shortly."
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Massachusetts residents age 65 and over and those with two or more specific medical conditions were allowed begin to scheduling their COVID-19 vaccination appointments at www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.
But residents were already reporting issues with the Massachusetts vaccination finder website on Thursday morning.
Resident Dodie McPhee said she woke up at 5 a.m. after seeing that she and her husband, a retired IT engineer, were now eligible for the vaccine.
"The MASS.GOV/vaxfinder website is CRASHING this morning," McPhee said in an email. "8 a.m. and everything is still crashing and my husband is chuckling at the stupidity of it all."
McPhee said her husband guessed that the website wasn't built to be scalable.
"We have two computers going and our phones in the hopes one of us will get lucky," she said. "I'm sure many people are doing the same thing. We are disappointed that the amount of vaccine coming into Massachusetts is so limited. Also that Gov. (Charlie) Baker thinks lumping us all into bulk groups to get our vaccines is a great idea."
In a series of tweets from the state's Twitter account, officials apologized for "website challenges" and said they were working to fix the problem, adding that appointments next week for multiple mass vaccination sites had already been fully booked.
Bharel is asking people to "be patient," as state officials work to figure out exactly why the Massachusetts vaccination finder website crashed Thursday morning and find a solution.
But Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka, a Democrat, criticized the Baker administration's rollout of the vaccination process.
“I am deeply disappointed that today so many Massachusetts residents are feeling frustration and anger on a day when we should be experiencing hope. I hear it and I feel it too," she said in a statement. "The Administration must deliver a better experience for our residents, who have already dealt with so much anxiety and disruption.”
State officials first acknowledged the website was having "technical difficulties," via Twitter, promising updates to follow.
Around 70,000 new appointments were expected to be posted at 8 a.m. at mass vaccination sites in Springfield and Danvers as well as at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. In a since deleted tweet, the state said Thursday morning that those appointments had yet to go live. In a new tweet and hour later, the state said "more mass vaccination appointments will be released throughout the morning."
CIC Health, which runs mass vaccine sites at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, said it would continue administering vaccines at those sites to those with existing appointments.
State Rep. Tami Gouveia expressed her displeasure with Thursday's rollout on Twitter, even using the hashtag "#managementfail." She said the issues with the website were avoidable.
"At exactly five minutes before 8 a.m. today the vaxfinder site crashed," resident Ellen Healy said. Healey was not able to set up vaccine appointment and said the site has not come back up.
"8:40 a.m. and the vaccination website has crashed!" added Kim Ketron. "So much for getting an appointment."
Numerous attempts by NBC10 Boston to open the website on Thursday morning generated different results. On some occasions, the site opened properly, on others a "502 Bad Gateway" or "This application crashed" message appeared on screen.
The state's original vaccination scheduling website -- mass.gov/covidvaccine -- did appear to be working properly on Thursday morning.
Thursday night, the Baker administration issued an apology through the COVID-19 Command Center while giving an update on how many appointments were made successfully and how the web developer that runs the site is working to prevent similar issues in the future.
"The administration sincerely apologizes for the frustration and inconvenience our residents experienced over the course of the day," the agency said in a statement.
The command center added that 60,000 vaccination appointments for the week were booked, and that no availabilities remained this week at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, or in Danvers, Natick, Dartmouth or Springfield.
In announcing the next step in the vaccination process, Baker said Thursday that he thought the state's vaccination scheduling tool was ready for the increased traffic.
"I think after this story broke earlier today we had 250,000 visits to the state website, but you can't actually sign up until tomorrow," the governor said. "So I think the website will be in good shape for this."
Due to extremely high demand for appointments and limited vaccine supply, state officials said it could take more than a month for all eligible individuals to secure an available appointment, unless federal supply significantly increases. Residents are encouraged to keep checking the website, as appointments are added on a rolling basis.
Here's everything you need to know:
Individuals 65 and over
Individuals 65 and over, including residents and staff of low income and affordable public and private senior housing are eligible to receive vaccine effective Thursday, Feb. 18.
Residents and staff of low income and affordable public and private senior housing can learn more about vaccination options here.
Individuals with 2 or more certain medical conditions
Individuals 16 and older with two or more of certain medical conditions (defined below) are also eligible for vaccine, effective Thursday.
In concert with CDC guidelines, the state has adopted the list of conditions that cause individuals to be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Massachusetts has also identified moderate to severe asthma as an eligible medical condition.
Phase 2 eligible conditions
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Learn more at CDC: COVID-19: People with Certain Medical Conditions
Mass vaccination appointments
Thursday morning, over 70,000 appointments are scheduled to be posted at mass vaccination sites (Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Double Tree Hotel in Danvers, Fenway Park in Boston and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro).
Details for booking can be found via the COVID-19 Vaccine Finder, which enables residents to search for a vaccination location and view appointment availability before scheduling. The tool can be accessed via the state’s vaccination website at www.mass.gov/COVIDvaccine or directly at https://vaxfinder.mass.gov.
Individuals who are unable to access appointments via the internet can call 211 and follow the prompts for vaccine appointments.
There are currently over 170 vaccination locations across the Commonwealth. Currently, almost 95% of the state's population lives within a 45-minute drive of a mass vaccination site or within 30 minutes of a regional, high volume site -- not counting the pharmacies, provider and community health center vaccination sites.