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65,640 Minutes! Painfully Long Waits On Vaccine Website As Thousands Of New Appointments Are Filled

BOSTON (CBS) – Fifty thousand new appointments for the state's mass COVID-19 vaccination sites went online Thursday morning and were quickly taken as thousands of people faced extremely long waits on the website.

Gov. Charlie Baker said tech experts worked all week to make sure the website was ready for the surge of traffic when the appointments went live at 8 a.m. Some claimed it crashed for them about an hour later. but Baker said Thursday afternoon there were no widespread outages.

"The system overall weathered a very significant surge of interested people this morning and remained online and booked 50,000 appointments over the course of the morning," he told reporters at a news conference.

"It's not like there's a whole bunch of appointments sitting around someplace that aren't being used."

The governor hoped a new digital waiting room would improve the experience, but it was infuriating for many.

Several people were told they will have to wait for days to get out of the waiting room. One sent this image to WBZ-TV's David Wade. The estimated wait time was 65,640 minutes. That's more than 45 days.

waiting room vaccine
(Image credit: David Wade - WBZ-TV)

Denise Witherell emailed WBZ-TV with a screen shot of her waiting time - 39,725 minutes, which is equal to more than 27 days.

waiting room vaccine
(Photo credit: Denise Witherell)

Chrisanne Sikora attempted to make her mother an appointment. The long wait wasn't the only issue she faced before ultimately giving up.

"At first the wait time was displayed at like 45 minutes, an hour. then eventually ticked down to 30 some odd minutes, then abruptly it shot up to over 100 minutes, then finally 1,070 minutes," Sikora said.

But some people were able to make appointments. WBZ-TV's Liam Martin said it took "a lot of patience" but he was eventually able to get through and book something.

"It appears the state is adding slots piece-meal throughout the day," he tweeted.

Craig Alexander booked an appointment for his wife. He logged on around 6 a.m. to get in line. By 7 a.m. he said he started seeing the first appointments becoming available.

The site gave Alexander 15 minutes to fill out the required information. He was ultimately able to successfully make an appointment at a mass vaccination site.

"It's a big relief," he said. "We've been hyper cautious."

Just before 9:30 a.m. the state tweeted that the 50,000 new appointments were "nearly all filled."

"If you have not been able to schedule an appointment yet, please try again next week - it may take several attempts over the course of a few weeks to get an open slot," the state said.

Meanwhile, David Bookbinder found himself in an ever-changing and confusing online waiting room. He was trying to book his wife one of the 50,000 vaccination appointments that were posted by the state at 8 a.m.

"It counted down, it counted down. It was 316, then 216, then 116, 16 all the way down to zero," said Bookbinder.

Cyber expert Peter Tran says the state has some work to do improving the online waiting room. He does point out though that the system did not crash like it did last Thursday.

"Residents shouldn't panic when they see that number. It's merely a calculation in that moment in time, based on volume," Tran said. "It appears to have the appropriate scale that it needs as far as backups."

The vaccine website crashed last Thursday when one million residents 65 and older and those with two medical conditions became eligible to make appointments on February 18.

Baker testified Thursday morning before the legislature's coronavirus oversight committee looking into the state's bumpy vaccine rollout. He told the panel the lack of supply has been the big issue.

To book your appointment at any of the sites visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you're eligible or call the hotline at 211.

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