Faulty Software Snarls Coronavirus Vaccine Sign-Ups

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UC San Diego Health, which is operating a drive-through mass vaccination site, is using its existing software rather than MyTurn because the two systems are incompatible, said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, UC San Diego Health’s chief information officer. Otherwise, those arriving for a second dose scheduled in the hospital system would have to be separated from people scheduled in MyTurn, he said.

“We would have to run out all of our second doses in some lanes while using new software in other lanes,” he said. It “would be incredibly inefficient.”

This week, the MyTurn system offered more appointments than it was supposed to at a vaccination site in San Diego run by Scripps Health, forcing the site to close for several days because it ran out of doses.

“The MyTurn system is fraught with issues,” Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps’s chief medical officer, said. “These challenges are adding another layer of unnecessary stress to our team.”

Health officials said the reliance on outside companies’ imperfect tools underscored the need to invest in technology for public health departments, many of which still use paper and fax machines to keep records.

State registries that keep track of residents’ vaccination histories — known as immunization information systems — could have been adapted to schedule appointments, said Mary Beth Kurilo, a senior director at the American Immunization Registry Association. But the federal government never asked them to, she said, and they would have needed more money and time to prepare.

Some regions have elected to avoid technology entirely.

In Johnston County, N.C., southeast of Raleigh, the Health Department decided it would have been too much of a strain on the staff to manage appointments online, so shots are first come first served.

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