Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine.

Last week Fairfax County held their second meeting for the Information Technology Committee to discuss issues with the county’s 1B mass vaccination pre-registration system.

The previous Monday saw a deluge of calls to the County’s voicemail system regarding how to get vaccinations for the coronavirus. The number of calls which was estimated at over 130,000 overwhelmed the system which also included a backup system to deal with such issues. 

According to the Fairfax County Government website, the 1B phase opens up vaccine appointments to a wider range of groups which includes people aged 75 and older, essential front-line workers, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and/or migrant labor camps or are at higher exposure to the coronavirus. 

The County’s Chief Technology Officer Gregory Scott made a presentation to the committee describing the breakdown of the voicemail system.

According to Scott, from 8am to 9am the call line received 12,064 calls which overloaded the County voicemail system causing it to crash for every call center in the County. From 9am to 10 am the number of calls rose to 129,196 which continued to overload the system. 

“Around this time surrounding counties and municipalities were experiencing similar problems, one nearby locality’s system went down an hour before the County’s did.” Scott said to the committee.

From 10am to 1pm the number of calls continued to grow up to the average amount of 130,000 calls. The County’s IT Department made on the spot changes to the system to held alleviate the issues of call deluge. The steps taken to help included adding an extra voice gateway which gave the center another line to work with as well as launching the online registration system ahead of its scheduled deployment.

The system with its addition remains operational and can receive calls for information and appointments for getting the vaccine.  The IT Department is looking ahead now to install a more robust call center, using more online assistance and to work more closely with the Virginia Department of Health to utilize their contact and information centers. 

Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn commented about how residents complained about the slowness of the answer system which was answered by Scott that the IT Department had been able to turn things around in a matter of days and a full registration system has been deployed to continue registration and notify those registered for the first dose of vaccine. Contacting residents for the second dose is reported to be done by e-mail according to Jessica Werder, Deputy Director of Public Health Operations for the VDH. 

Registration for appointments can be made online at FairfaxCounty.gov/covid19 or the Health Department’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404.

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