A mistake by authorities officers allowed 7,200 unqualified Utahns to join COVID-19 vaccines

The bug that allowed 7,200 Utahns who did not qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine to schedule appointments over the weekend was caused by a website design bug created by employees of the State Department of Technology Services said a DTS spokeswoman on Monday.

That bug confirmed rumors circulating on Friday that the state was struggling to fill appointments and expand access as the website allowed people to register despite admitting they didn’t have the required health conditions had or were not old enough to meet the current requirements criteria.

“Our logic was – there must be these basic safeguards in place to ensure that people who are not supposed to register cannot,” said Dustin Wolters, 38, of Riverton, who shared the belief that the vaccine might be wasted would be. “It’s very frustrating that you missed a very easy step. … It’s a big mistake. “

[Read more: Utahns sought COVID-19 vaccine in good faith. But their slots were a state mistake, and they feel vilified.]

The unteraccinate.utah.gov system is a new website created by the Department of Technology Services and MTX Group, Inc., said Tom Hudachko, director of communications for the Utah Department of Health.

Users will be asked if they meet current vaccine approval requirements, Hudachko said. Over the weekend, Utahns who answered “yes” and “no” were both sent to the scheduling system to schedule an appointment, he said.

Those who answered “no” should be sent to a page that states they are not eligible and should check back later, Hudachko said.

“The design flaw was that people who marked the admission question with ‘no’ could make appointments,” said Stephanie Weteling, information officer for DTS, in an email.

The state’s design had been implemented by the MTX Group, and the state had updated its design. The bug had not been investigated further, she added. Weteling made it clear that “the design flaw was made by the state, not MTX”.

According to the contract, the state commissioned the MTX Group with US $ 343,000 to build the site.

It should help smaller health departments that may have struggled developing an online registration system, Hudachko said. Salt Lake County started doing it late last week, and San Juan County is the only other county that is currently using it.

All 7,200 appointments for people who responded that they didn’t meet current vaccination requirements have been canceled, Hudachko said.

This was how state and district officials became aware of the glitch and the timing of their response.

A warning sign on Friday night

Salt Lake County began using the new system late last week, said Gabe Moreno, spokesman for the county health department.

The office of Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County’s mayor, became aware of a potential problem late Friday night, the county’s communications director Chloe Morroni said in a statement Monday.

State officials with the Department of Technology Services also noted late Friday that a large number of people who had marked “no” to the admission question could make appointments, Hudachko said.

In Utah, people aged 65 and over and people aged 16 and over with certain severe or chronic medical conditions can receive the COVID-19 vaccine – as can teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and residents and long-term care workers. The state uses the honor system and asks utahns who do not have the specific health conditions on the state’s list not to seek appointments.

Wilson “immediately started troubleshooting” on Friday, Morroni said, and by Saturday morning “it was clear that there was indeed a breakdown.”

The social and technical answer

The mayor began working on the problem with Jill Miller, co-director of Salt Lake County’s Mass Vaccination Division, and Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Department of Health.

The county’s IT team “was contacted and immediately started fixing the mishap with the state,” Morroni said.

DTS began working with Salt Lake County on what was originally intended to be a temporary solution, Weteling said, that would only “allow people with a registration code from Salt Lake County to access the system.” Users would need to get the code from the Salt Lake County website, where they would have to check their age and certify their qualifying health, and then use the code on the website for state appointments.

Wilson “involved her communications team to help with messaging,” who posted on social media who qualified for a vaccine, Morroni said.

The county’s social media initiative to clarify that vaccination eligibility had not changed didn’t start until after noon and initially did not refer to the website bug that allowed unqualified residents to schedule appointments.

At 1:25 pm on Saturday, Wilson tweeted, “Today there is confusion over the eligibility criteria for vaccines. Salt Lake County has confirmed that the eligibility announced by the governor on Thursday remains in place. People over the age of 65 are eligible, and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with qualified medical conditions are eligible. “

Today there is confusion about the eligibility criteria for vaccines. Salt Lake County has confirmed that the eligibility announced by the governor on Thursday remains in place. People over the age of 65 are eligible, and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with qualified medical conditions are eligible.

– Jenny Wilson (@JennyWilsonUT) February 27, 2021

Shortly after 2 p.m., Wilson was re-tweeted from Salt Lake County’s government and health department accounts, again reminding residents of eligibility and qualification requirements.

The Salt Lake County’s Department of Health Communications Office regularly monitors online chatters to see if there are any rumors that need addressing, Moreno said.

After previously being notified of the glitch by the mayor’s office, Moreno said he saw a tweet at 4:15 pm on Saturday with “false information” attributed to an emergency doctor at the University of Utah.

The tweet “didn’t come from one of our official accounts. We are looking into this, “said spokeswoman Kathy Wilets of the University of Utah Health on Monday.

Quoting this fake tweet from the Salt Lake County’s Department of Health account, Moreno said, “Please don’t make appointments unless you have a qualified illness. Those who genuinely believed they were eligible for an appointment without a qualifying illness ask you to cancel that appointment so that those at risk can access appointments. “

Please do not make appointments if you do not have a qualified illness. Those who genuinely believed they were eligible for an appointment without a qualifying illness ask you to cancel that appointment so that those at risk can access appointments. https://t.co/MLQDoHTEPI

– Salt Lake Health (@SaltLakeHealth) February 27, 2021

On Saturday afternoon, State Technology Services had resolved the issue of requiring codes to make appointments.

After 6 p.m., the Utah Department of Health issued a statement stating that there was an error on the website.

And on Saturday night there was a permanent solution; At vacinate.utah.gov, users now need to confirm their authorized status before they can sign up for an account to book an appointment.

The Salt Lake County system that provides registration codes for booking appointments has also been put in place permanently, Moreno said. “The state has been very responsive and the situation has been corrected,” said Morroni.

She said the mayor’s office received a few calls about the breakdown, and the county health department received calls from local residents as well. Some residents told The Salt Lake Tribune that the lines were clogged and they would not be able to get into the department on Saturday.

This will avoid future confusion

If Utahns see rumors of vaccinations or aren’t sure who’s eligible, they should check the Utah Department of Health’s website at https://coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine for the latest information, Hudachko and Moreno said.

Hudachko said he thinks the “vast majority” of people who made appointments on Saturday answered questions honestly, thinking they could sign up.

About 1,000 people canceled appointments themselves between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and the Department of Health sent 6,200 notices to people that their appointments had been canceled, Hudachko said.

The emails sent included a phone number people could call if they canceled their appointment but felt they were eligible, he said.

According to Hudachko, there were 44 rejections in San Juan County and the rest in Salt Lake County.

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