Maricopa County Vaccine Operations 'Dramatically Slowed' By Arizona System Glitches

By Rocio Hernandez, Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, January 1, 2021 - 11:41am
Updated: Monday, January 4, 2021 - 10:43am

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Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
Cars pull into the vaccination site at the Arizona State Fairgrounds on the first day of a mass vaccination campaign on Dec. 17, 2020.

This week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine distribution, saying any delays were unacceptable.

Maricopa County officials attribute challenges it faced earlier in its vaccine rollout to the state's own vaccine management system.

Many people reported to the county that the system never sent them an email to schedule their vaccine appointments and others that did receive one were directed to areas outside of the county, Maricopa officials said in email to the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

→ After Rough Start, Maricopa County Steps Up COVID-19 Vaccination Program

The system was procured late into the planning process and was handed over to Maricopa County for operational use two days before it launched its SE and SW vaccine sites, they said. 

The county said the following issues with the Department of Health Services vaccine management system (VMS) have dramatically slowed down its vaccine operations:

    • Many people reported to Maricopa County that they did not ever receive an email from the state system inviting them to make an appointment. Maricopa County was told that these invites may have been caught in people’s bulk mail; however, many people reported never finding/receiving an invite to the ADHS system.
    • Many people who were directed to schedule their appointment at the SE and SW POD’s were never able to see these “private” POD locations in the system. Instead, they were directed to “public” sites in Show Low, Snowflake and Globe. This brought thousands of calls and emails to Maricopa County from people wanting to know why Maricopa County was sending them so far away. At this point, Maricopa County asked for support from ADHS in standing up a support line to assist the healthcare personnel looking for their POD location and they were able to bring in vital records staff to support these callers. Unfortunately, Maricopa County did have healthcare workers travel to Show Low, Snowflake or Globe looking for vaccine due to this error.
    • Due to this “Snowflake” issue, Maricopa County and Dignity Health quickly mobilized and signed people up for same day appointments and sent an email to everyone who had prescreened allowing them to walk in for appointments since they could not register in the state system. The system still does not allow the administrator to schedule anything other than same day appointments and does not allow a text message option. This error slowed down the entire vaccine operation and put us days behind in delivering vaccine.
    • Healthcare workers were expecting to schedule their second dose as they received their first dose; however, the state VMS was not able to allow this functionality at the time of service due to the multitude of issues with people securing their first event.  We are only now available to send out another invite to schedule for a second dose appointment.
    • The VMS was also not able to accept anyone with a cox email account. Any person trying to use the state system with a cox account was unable to access their account or an appointment time. This was scheduled to be corrected on 12/30 but now a plan needs to be identified for anyone who tried to register with a Cox address.
    • Any person trying to schedule an appointment when the SE or SW PODs were closed were also unable to see these PODs in the system. Again, they would only see Snowflake, Show Low and Globe. This is still being investigated.
    • Currently, the system does not allow the ability to download insurance information so that Maricopa County cannot currently bill the administration fee.

Most of the issues have been resolved and the county's vaccine sites have been running at full capacity this week, Maricopa public health officials said. 

The state’s vaccine management system, which was developed and tested in concert with local partners, is and has been functioning properly, ADHS said in a statement to KJZZ. It has been used without issues in most counties.

"We have worked closely with Maricopa County to address an interoperability issue between the county’s prescreening tool and the statewide vaccine management system," ADHS said. "We look forward to the benefits this advance will have for the pace and convenience of COVID-19 vaccination."

ADHS also notes that two of the four large COVID-19 vaccination providers in Maricopa County, Banner and HonorHealth, aren’t handling registration through the state’s vaccine management system.

Banner and Honor were not comfortable in using a new vaccine management system for such a big task and asked to use their own systems, the county said in its email to ADHS. This required Maricopa to build a county-wide system using three vaccine management systems simultaneously. This also made it necessary to utilize one prescreening tool that allowed for equity across the county. 

Banner and Honor are using the county's screening tool and have had limited problems with scheduling appointments for health care workers.

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