Failure to integrate information systems leaves New Yorkers seeking COVID-19 vaccination out of luck.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles called “Cyber Watch,” produced by RACmonitor and authored by Edward Roche.

New York City is supposed to be one of the most advanced data processing centers in the world. Wall Street, banking, insurance – all of these sectors are heavy users of computing systems. The city also has a few pockets of technology innovation, and even a few start-ups.

One would think that when it comes to IT, the Big Apple would shine. But that’s not what’s happening now.

The hasty and ill-planned efforts to vaccinate New Yorkers has turned into an IT nightmare. Nothing seems to work. The New York City Health Department has set up a “vaccine finder” website designed to show the places where one can be vaccinated. There is a map display and list of locations, each with a “schedule an appointment” button. Sounds easy, right? The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to work well.

Each vaccination location is different. Each requires one to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about one’s eligibility, name, address, date of birth, email address, sex, race, whether or not you are Hispanic, what type of work you do, and so on. Many require that you register and get a login and password.

Every single one I tried would get to the stage where the system was going to send a verification email or SMS message as confirmation, then nothing happens. All the data lost; all the effort wasted.

Some have numbers to call. That yields no answer, or a long recorded message with irrelevant information.

Sometimes you can get to the last step, which is “schedule an appointment,” then, guess what – no appointments are available, even if you look as far out as June.

One wonders why the site is listed at all, if there are zero appointments available? One wonders why it asks for so much information if there are no appointments anyway.

So you go to another location. Go through the same thing again. Repeat.

My wife and I have been doing this over and over for two days, looking at locations in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and in other places I’ve never heard of.

Some people seem to be getting through. But how efficient is the system? As of tonight, New York City has used up 267,923 out of 793,000 vaccinations that were delivered. So around 525,000 doses are sitting in storage.

Things are not working well, at all.

The situation in New York City is a cyber crisis. It is the result of lack of planning and lack of coordination between different information systems. Citizens are wasting hours and hours re-entering the same data over and over, and finding out that nothing is available, over and over.

It is the result of using hundreds of information systems, when actually there should be only one.

What we see in New York City is not only a health disaster, but it is a cyber disaster. Hopefully New York is not becoming a model for other cities in the United States.

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