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COVID-19 / Health / Municipal government / Software

Philly gov says it’s addressed the issue of link-sharing for FEMA vaccine site appointments

The City of Philadelphia is using PrepMod, a registration software recommended by the CDC, to schedule vaccine appointments. But it previously allowed residents to forward along links to non-eligible people.

The COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash)

Encouraging vaccine news has come to Philadelphia recently in the form of a mass vaccine clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center run by FEMA. The site has been inoculating nearly 6,000 people a day since it set up shop early last week.

But nearly as soon as the site was set up, links to register for a vaccine appointment began circulating to city residents and non-residents who weren’t yet eligible.

The City of Philadelphia is using PrepMod, a registration software recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to schedule vaccine appointments. The State of Pennsylvania is also using the software, City spokesperson Jim Garrow told Technical.ly.

That software is pulling from those who registered with the city’s vaccine interest form. About 300,000 people have signed up so far, Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday during the City’s weekly COVID-19 update.

But the software had a loophole: The links sent out to eligible residents to schedule an appointment could be forwarded to and accessed by anyone.

“We have had some problems that have been seen around the country where the email invitations end up being shared, and people come in and get vaccinated who were not invited,” Farley said Tuesday.

Currently, appointments should be allocated to residents in Phase 1A and 1B of the rollout, namely medical workers, frontline workers, elderly residents and those with specific underlying medical conditions.

PrepMod also allowed some complications like overbooking clinics, sending patients incorrect or conflicting scheduling reminders or letting ineligible people sign up, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last month. The state’s Department of Health paid $852,000 for the software.

But Garrow said Tuesday that the city had been working with the software company to remedy the link-sharing issue by allowing single-use links that would only work for eligible people. Although municipalities across the country have been having similar issues, Philadelphia is among the first to make this request of the company, Garrow said.

“We have been requesting this for several weeks, and it was just implemented over the weekend,” he said in an email.

But those single-use email invitations are going out slower than the city had hoped, Farley said during today’s press conference. The issue should be fixed by Wednesday, he said, but to supplement the rollout, the City is making phone calls to high-risk people on the list. He reiterated that the FEMA clinic is not walk-up — you must have an appointment to get a vaccine.

Of the 300,000 people in the city’s database, about 70,000 or 23% have received vaccines so far, Farley said.

“We are absolutely working our way through that database,” he said.

Companies: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / City of Philadelphia
Series: Coronavirus

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