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6 Hours And 6 Minutes: Bob Oakes On Delays And 'Delirium' Signing Up For A Vaccine Slot

Well, it was not quite as bad it could have been considering the state’s COVID vaccine sign up system was clearly overwhelmed.

Six hours and six minutes after starting to try to book my own appointment this morning, I got one for late next week.

The site opened for appointments for my bracket — people aged 65 and up — at 8 a.m. today. I was on the site 30 seconds later. (Yes, I was still on the air anchoring WBUR's Morning Edition. I swear I was manipulating the keyboard when I was not speaking on the radio. I swear.)

Just a few seconds into the effort I was looking at the message many people read this morning: “This application crashed.” And so, went my hopes for early success.

Massachusetts' vaccine appointment site crashed Thursday morning, just as many became eligible to register for appointments. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts' vaccine appointment site crashed Thursday morning, just as many became eligible to register for appointments. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

After reading that message repeatedly for about 15 minutes in other failed attempts, I tried going directly to the websites of a local hospital, local pharmacy chain stores and supermarkets with pharmacies that were listed as vaccination sites. Failed, failed, failed, and failed.

At 8:44 a.m., I switched back to state’s website, and, after a few tries, I got it in! Oh joy! Near the bottom of the website, it showed two appointments for today at the vaccine site Worcester State University! With great anticipation for a sore arm, I clicked through to the Worcester State site and was greeted with the “Application has crashed” message again. Repeat, and fail. Repeat and fail.

It's like washing your hair, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Except at least I get a sweet-smelling scalp out of the hair exercise. Out of this, I was getting diddly. I kept trying for about 30 minutes. Then, for the sake of the health of my computer — which I felt like trashing — I walked away, taking the advice of state officials to try later.

I figured if [the woodpecker] could repeatedly pound his head against a tree trunk to get at a winter snack of insects, well then, I could pound my head, too, in this quest for a vaccine.

Two hours later, fortified by a cup of calming English breakfast tea and a piece of multi-grain toast with mashed avocado sprinkled with a little lime juice, I decided to try again. But it was the same all over again. I felt like I was living the film “50 First Dates.” I was trying to get a date with a vaccine, and every time I tried, I had to go back to the beginning and start all over again. The date I was pursuing just never remembered me.

Around 1 p.m. in some sort of blue-screen-induced delirium, I flashed on an image: A few days ago, I spotted a woodpecker near my house. Actually, I heard him before seeing him thanks to his rapid-fire rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, rap. And I figured if that guy could repeatedly pound his head against a tree trunk to get at a winter snack of insects, well then, I could pound my head, too, in this quest for a vaccine.

At 1:15 p.m., I got into the website for the vaccine clinic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. I finally could see that thousands of vaccine appointments had been added. I picked the day with most appointments and clicked — but got sent back. I tried again and again.

Then, the site allowed me in further. Step by step, I entered my personal information and medical history. I selected a time slot with the most appointments. I confirmed my information. But between each step, there was a step back. I kept receiving a message that read: “Application Error.”

Instead of quitting, I kept refreshing and refreshing, pounding my head just once more and once more and once more.

Then, at long last, success!

At 2:06 p.m., six hours and six minutes after I began, I received a long-awaited email that read: “Your vaccination appointment is confirmed.”

Today, I heard Gov. Charlie Baker say his “hair’s on fire” with frustration over the glitches seen on the state's vaccine website.

Well, governor, at least you have some hair to spare. It should not have been this maddening.

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Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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