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Web Vendor PrepMod Apologizes For Role In Massachusetts Vaccine Appointment Website Disaster

BOSTON (CBS) - PrepMod, the company that manages the appointment system for Massachusetts' mass COVID-19 vaccine sites, has taken "full responsibility" for its role in Thursday's site crash and it's working with the state to make sure it doesn't happen again.

When vaccine appointments became available for a million more people Thursday morning, the state's website could not handle the massive surge in traffic.

"As the state's biggest online appointment vendor, we deeply regret what happened (Thursday) in Massachusetts and are committed to ensuring this does not happen again," PrepMod said in a statement. "As public health servants and your partner, we are sorry for not meeting expectations. We accept full responsibility for the problem."

The CEO of PrepMod, a non-profit organization out of Maryland, said the volume was unexpected because they didn't know people 65 and older had become eligible for the vaccine in Massachusetts.

"PrepMod is not based in Massachusetts and we did not know that that announcement had been made," CEO Tiffany Tate told WBZ-TV Friday.

According to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, that's not the case. "They certainly were aware of our making the changes," Sudders said during an interview with CBSN. "I would say, however, there was unprecedented movement and hints on both the website and then on to PrepMod. It was really an extraordinary number of individuals at 8 a.m. yesterday morning, which is clearly overwhelmed the system. And again, we regret what happened to residents of the Commonwealth because people have been very patient."

Sudders said she appreciated PrepMod taking responsibility.

vaccine website crash
The state's vaccine website crashed Thursday morning.(WBZ-TV)

Tate said the now infamous computer screen with an octopus and a question mark that many frustrated residents saw when they couldn't make an appointment is the state's website. Users are redirected to PrepMod only when booking at a mass vaccination site.

"There was just this enormous amount of traffic to both sites and both sites had challenges yesterday. Our traffic went from about 1,000 hits per minute to about 70,000 hits per minute," she told WBZ. "Our database didn't scale up as quickly as we would have liked."

Tate said the system has been fixed and they will be better prepared for the future.

"What we've done is to work very closely with our staff and also with the folks at the state to make sure that this doesn't happen again," she said.

The Massachusetts Senate and House are holding a public oversight hearing Thursday, February 25 on the vaccine rollout. State Representative Bill Driscoll said Thursday's issues will be addressed.

"We want to understand why Massachusetts was seemingly so underprepared," he told WBZ Friday.

Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you're eligible and to book an appointment or call the hotline at 211.

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