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10K new Riverside County vaccine appointments filled within minutes as many Coachella Valley residents are left frustrated by online error messages

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"One of the most frustrating things I’ve ever gone through."

La Quinta resident Dennis Lanham was among thousands of people vying for a vaccination appointment in Riverside County on Saturday.

Just minutes after approximately 10,000 appointments rolled out in Riverside County, the site to get an appointment crashed. Users were met with an 'Error' message shortly after being rerouted to the state website. Some people got as far as filling out their information, while others received the message directly after clicking the 'Register' link.

"I would say between 12 p.m. and 12:35 p.m. my heart was racing the entire time," said Palm Springs resident, Julie Spira who tried logging on to create an appointment for her 89-year-old mother.

Viewers flooded News Channel 3's phone lines and email after people all over the county had waited anxiously to snag an appointment.

"We tried every single location in Riverside County and kept getting 'error' message. I never got as far as even signing my name," said part-time Desert Hot Springs resident, Donna Mollan.

Many were standing by Saturday morning. The county announced that roughly 10,000 vaccination appointments would roll out Saturday at noon. The county has since created a new webpage after the old system crashed on Thursday, just as 3,900 appointments were made available.

According to a county spokesperson, once the appointments would be made available the live links would populate. Users would then be redirected to the state website, where they would enter their information, and determine whether there are appointments available.

Many people had high hopes after multiple past attemps.

"I would get the 'error 1200' message, and then I’d refresh and refresh and try again and try again and then I’d get back into it," said valley resident, David Armstrong.

Armstrong was online trying to make an appointment for his husband.

"It’s kind of frustrating but it’s expected. How many people are in Southern California and Riverside County and we’re all vying for just a few thousand shots?" said Armstrong.

With a stroke of luck San Diego resident and Murrieta teacher, Bruce Wininger was one of those who got in.

"I don’t know what the secret is, I don’t know why I got one but I do know I just kept on it and kept hitting 'refresh' and just kind of hung in there," said Wininger.

A Riverside County spokesperson told News Channel 3 that within 32 minutes, all appointments had filled up.

"When I finally went on a page where there were appointments, they were all taken. What is the sense of putting somebody on an appointment page where there are no appointments available? That ridiculous, it’s an insult," said Lanham.

Lanham had no idea getting a vaccine would be this difficult. He and his wife had anticipated seeing family members soon.

"We want to see our kids, we haven’t seen our kids in over a year," said Lanham.

On Thursday the county's website crashed when another round of appointments were made available. Since then, they created a new webpage.

On Friday county officials addressed the problem during a briefing organized by Supervisor V. Manuel Perez.

MORE: Riverside County apologizes for ‘unacceptable’ vaccine appointment website meltdown

"[Thursday] was obviously a difficult day for us technology-wise. We were using a third party vendor to run our vaccine website and the process of the vendor made some changes to address it and improve some earlier issues," said Riverside County's Interim Executive Officer, Juan C. Perez.

Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico released a statement addressing Saturday's issues immediately following the appointment rollout.

The county opened the registration appointments at noon today for approximately 10,000 appointments for next week's clinics. The new county vaccine website functioned as designed and provided uninterrupted access to the upcoming schedule of vaccine clinics.

Unfortunately, the state's registration website was not able to handle the traffic. As a result, many residents saw an error when attempting to link to the state site. The county team continues to address technical issues with the state regarding their registration system.

Many residents were able to get through on the state's registration site as all appointments filled within 32 minutes. We continue to ask for patience as the demand for vaccine far outweighs the amount of doses received locally and resulting available appointments.

Each week, more clinics and appointments will be announced as we receive more vaccine in Riverside County. Within three to four days of receiving vaccine, Riverside County distributes all of it to a combination of private providers and directly to the community at public health vaccine clinics. These vaccine clinics have been a very effective way to quickly administer shots to residents within a few days of receiving it. The county continues to work with the state on the registration process to make registering for these clinics easier.

For some, fatigue has begun to set in.

"I’m not sure whether I want to keep trying this process. It’s just so very disappointing," said Palm Desert resident, Patricia Finn.

Many people have voiced their concerns to News Channel 3 saying that they hope those in the charge of the website will improve the system.

"Frustration, I felt like I could take a 10-year old child that I had in computer class and they probably could have done a better job on the website," said Mollan.

"I want them to get a computer system that is somehow based in the 21st century," said Lanham.

"Please try and get servers that are more robust, servers that can handle so many attempts at the same time," said Spira.

The new website to sign-up for vaccines is www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine.

Download the News Channel 3 app on the Apple Store or Google Play to get alerts on when new appointments or vaccine clinics are available.

In Riverside County, people 65 years and older are able to get their coronavirus vaccine, along with adults of all ages if they work in education, law enforcement, food and agriculture, and emergency services.

That group makes up Phase 1B in the county's vaccine distribution framework. People in all tiers of Phase 1A can also be vaccinated.

  • For employees in Phase 1A and 1B – Tier 1, an appointment and employee ID badge/letter from place of employment required or you will not be vaccinated
  • For those 65 years and older, an appointment and ID is required.

The clinics will provide vaccines free of charge but medical insurance information will be requested.

You must register and set-up an appointment in order to be vaccinated. If an individual cannot show proof of eligibility or does not have an appointment they will be turned away.

MORE: Want to get on a vaccine waiting list? Find details here.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

Have any questions about the vaccine? We teamed up with local health experts to answer viewer-submitted questions. Watch below:

Coronavirus / News Headlines / Top Stories
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Shelby Nelson

Shelby Nelson is a News Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. She joined our team in September 2019. Learn more about Shelby here.

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