State: ‘No evidence’ early vaccine scheduling page issues caused by hackers or leaks

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A New York State investigation found "no evidence" errors on the state’s vaccine page were caused by hackers, or by unauthorized leaks to the public, the state announced Thursday.

The investigation, launched by the New York State Inspector General’s office looked into roughly 28,000 premature vaccination appointments made public across the state in January of this year Those appointments were all canceled. The site is run by the Department of Health.

The report found "multiple" technical issues, including an unauthorized link misled New Yorkers to believe there were appointment times available when there weren’t. Many people, including locally, were turned away when they showed up for what they thought was their appointment slot.

The report found a "misunderstanding" among the site’s creators that unintentionally allowed the public to access appointments. Additionally, the state said pages created specifically for training became accessible, and while the sites were branded for training purposes, people were still able to book appointments that did not exist.

The state the links became easily shareable, which is why so many false appointments were made.

If you’ll recall, NY’s vaccine rollout started with select people within the community, specifically healthcare workers and those who were 65 years and older, among other groups. The report found people who bypassed the eligibility screening based on the unauthorized link did not always work around the requirements specifically, as people still had to show eligibility at vaccine sites.

Eligibility was gradually expanded, but issues were still present. The state report found the system behind the page was "insufficient" and struggled to handle the high public demand for appointments.

In the closing of the report, the IG’s office recommended the state routinely test its eligibility screening tool, and review its protocols, among other moves.

As of now, people 12 years and older can get a vaccine, and while people can use scheduling sites to book an appointment, walk-in appointments are accepted at most clinics. Federal regulators are looking into approving the vaccine for children ages 5-11.