At 12:55 pm, Kevin Heard was refreshing the New York City health department’s monkeypox website, waiting for a link to the Affiliated Physicians webpage to appear. It would allow him to schedule a vaccine appointment.
By 1:02 pm, he saw his first error message.
“Immediately, the first thing was, “Service is unavailable,” Heard, 32, told Gothamist. “It was incredibly frustrating.”
Heard, who has some experience designing websites, opened up Google Chrome’s “Developer Tools” window and spent the next hour and a half refreshing the page. He was eventually able to book vaccine appointments for himself and his partner.
But countless other New Yorkers weren’t so lucky. By 1:29 pm, the city’s health department announced that the website was down, citing a “high level of traffic.” The department had planned to release about 2,500 shots on Tuesday, the final bits of a 6,000-dose shipment delivered last week.
Three vaccine-seekers interviewed by Gothamist all said they were asked to use a single set of credentials to log in to the website. The pileup caused the webpage to freeze repeatedly, preventing many from getting a vaccine they desperately wanted.
“Due to overwhelming traffic, as soon as appointments went online this afternoon, the site delivered error messages for many people who were unable to make appointments,” read a department statement shared by spokesperson Michael Lanza. “This is just further proof that demand is very high, and we will continue working to make vaccine available.”
The website is operated by Affiliated Physicians, which offers onsite vaccine clinics and health assessments to companies. The city chose the company to replace MedRite, a line of walk-in clinics whose website also crashed when vaccine appointments were initially made available last week. In late June, the city tried to giveaway vaccines through a mixture of appointments and walk-ins but was quickly overwhelmed by demand.
“From a technical perspective, it’s certainly not best practice,” said 30-year-old Cody Dean, who runs a technology consulting firm. He also noted that being self-employed gave him the time and freedom to spend an afternoon refreshing the page — a luxury that other New Yorkers may not be able to afford.
“I own a technology company and I was still unsuccessful,” Dean said. “They’re not distributing this equitably.”