Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel is asking people to be patient as state officials work to figure out why the Massachusetts vaccination finder website crashed Thursday morning and find a solution.
"I know there's this 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 and NECN. "I asked individuals to continue to check back and it should be resolved shortly."
Residents were already reporting issues with the state's vaccination finder website Thursday morning as about one million people became newly eligible to get the vaccine for the first time. The high volume of traffic on the website is expected to have contributed to the crash, according to Bharel.
"A million more people has increased the volume to the website and it has intermittently been going down," Bharel said. "We are working on problem solving and this is related to the volume of individuals who are now eligible and we hope to have all of those website issues resolved very shortly."
Due to extremely high demand for appointments and limited vaccine supply, Bharel said it could take weeks for all eligible individuals to secure an available appointment, unless federal supply significantly increases. The state currently receives roughly 100,000 new doses per week, according to Bharel.
Bharel encouraged residents to keep checking the website. Appointments are added on a rolling basis.
Almost one million people are newly eligible for the vaccine based on a Wednesday announcement from Gov. Charlie Baker.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Massachusetts residents age 65 and over and those with two or more specific medical conditions were allowed begin scheduling their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. The list of qualifying medical conditions now includes asthma.
Around 70,000 new appointments were expected to be posted at the same time at mass vaccination sites in Springfield and Danvers as well as at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. But those appointments have yet to go live, according to the state's Twitter account.
The website crash is the latest upset in a vaccine distribution rollout that has received a rash of criticism. Baker has been under fire from the congressional delegation, state lawmakers and communities of color.
The state's COVID-19 vaccination rollout process came under intense scrutiny when Massachusetts moved into the second phase of the rollout last month. Facing mounting criticism, Baker launched an appointment hotline aimed at helping senior citizens who struggled to navigate the state's vaccine website.
Massachusetts earned a failing grade for its coronavirus vaccine rollout in a Harvard report that labeled it one of the worst in the nation.
Most recently, the legislature announced oversight hearings to investigate the rollout Wednesday. Baker has said he looks forward to that. As for the criticism, he pointed out that Massachusetts is the only state that prioritized the mental health, prison and homeless communities.
"We have and continue to make progress and work daily on increasing our capacity to have vaccines effectively efficiently and equitably distributed," Bharel said.
The public health commissioner pointed to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows Massachusetts is now among the top 10 in the country for vaccinations per capita.