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Second Round Of COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments In Hays County 'Evaporate' In Less Than An Hour

A medical student receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A medical student receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December.

Hays County opened its coronavirus vaccine appointment portal for the second time on Friday, but the process was riddled with crashing webpages and error messages.

"Our county site never stopped working,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said in an online news conference after the portal closed. “The bottleneck, unfortunately to describe what just took place, was with the company that reserves your information.”

Becerra was referring to the online tool that the county is using as a sign-up sheet, SignUpGenius. The software is often used for volunteer management and event planning.

This is the second week in a row Hays County has received a major vaccine delivery. Like last week, the state allocated the county 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

"Of course 1,950 vaccines evaporate as soon as we open the portal," Becerra said. "Of course they do. We have a population of almost 300,000. If that's not enough, the guidelines that we are faced with don't stop at the county line."

Becerra was referring to the fact that people in Texas can travel to another county to get their vaccine. He said that he saw people registering from "all the way as far as Dallas" during today's opening.

"This is a national pandemic that doesn't stop at the state. And it's definitely not going to stop at the county," Becerra said. "If anyone from anywhere in the entire state calls [Hays County] for an appointment, and we have the vaccines, we have to give it to them."

All appointments had been booked around 40 minutes after the portal went live at noon. But many had trouble getting access.

As a reporter covering this, I spent the hour refreshing links on my desktop and my phone. I have reliable internet access, but neither of the two SignUpGenius links — one for appointments at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center in Kyle and another for appointments at Live Oak Primary Care in San Marcos — worked for me until at least 30 minutes in.

The Live Oak sign-up link only worked for me on my phone. By the time I got access, all appointments had already been booked. On my desktop, the same link sent me to a page of booked appointments from last week.

Around 12:40 p.m., the county website said “phones still available,” referring to the vaccines set aside for those who needed to make an appointment by phone. After a few minutes, that was gone, too.

The difficulty in securing an appointment has led many to urge the county to create a waitlist. But Becerra said earlier this week that he doesn’t see that happening anytime “in the near future” and that he hasn't found "a model" that fits the needs of Hays County.

Now, Becerra is imploring people to contact the state directly to lobby for more allocations of the vaccine.

"If you want to call someone and you want to tell them that we need more vaccines, I implore you to please call the Capitol," he said. "We are not driving this ship of what comes in our way."

Got a tip? Email Riane Roldan at Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.

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Riane Roldan is the Hays County reporter for KUT, focusing on the costs and benefits of suburban growth. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.
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