Open letter to Gov. Cox on vaccination frustrations

Governor Cox: 

The Utah County Health Department sent out a text recently announcing that new appointments for COVID vaccinations for those 70 and older would open up at 6 P.M. The announcement provided a website address at which Utah County residents could sign up for their vaccinations.

I checked the county website at 5:59 p.m. and it was operating properly, but showed no additional dates for appointments.

I checked the county website at 6 p.m., 6:01 p.m., 6:02 p.m., etc., for 10 minutes and it was totally non-functional.

I could sometimes get a grayed-out screen that showed that no appointment times were available. On one occasion, the screen showed that vaccination appointments were available for First Responders. A couple of times, I clicked on that option to see if that was working. It was not.

This is ridiculous incompetence.

I understand that the same thing happened recently in Salt Lake County/City and additional servers were added so the system started working again.

Evidently the Utah County Department of Health didn't pay attention to what happened in Salt Lake and was caught entirely flat-footed.

I was formerly a high-level executive for Ancestry.com and understand something about handling surges in usage of a high-traffic site. Preparing for those so a service stays up and responsive requires some work, but strategies for dealing with such surges are and have been well-known for at least 10-15 years or more.

Two recommendations:

1. Since I am over 70, I have collected a number of different physicians. I can make an appointment with any of them for the next day, the next week or the next month. Of course, there are some days when they're booked up, but I can always sign up for an appointment at some time. I've never experienced any computer service outages at any of their offices.

What is wrong with distributing COVID vaccines to Utah physicians so the burden of providing vaccinations is spread out over many more locations with many more people than the county health departments have available? I understand that in other states, this is the approach that has been taken.

2. Can't someone get the Utah County Health Department to move into the 21st century with its computer system?

When I first investigated their website, I immediately noticed how poorly designed and architected it was. In a word, it was quite crude and difficult to use (and I have been using online computer systems for over 35 years).

Evidently, the underlying computer system is as crudely assembled as the customer-facing system is. I understand that state budgets are not unlimited, but I know 20-30 college students who could build a better website than the County Health Department has.

If Utah County and the state of Utah sincerely care about the health of the citizens they serve, they should stop trying to represent that concern through third-world computer systems.

-- David Vandagriff, Provo

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