Marco Island's website crashes as thousands try to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify how he city of Marco Island informed residents about how to make a vaccine appointment. 

The website of the city of Marco Island crashed Wednesday as possibly tens of thousands of web visitors attempted to make one of 200 available appointments to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the city announced in a news release.

The website was down for about 30 minutes, the Marco Eagle observed.

The city apologized for the inconvenience many residents experienced as they tried to register for a COVID-19 vaccine on the city's website.

On an average day, the city's website has 2,120 visitors with 6,693 page views, Assistant to the City Manager Casey Lucius wrote in an email.

"Today we had 41,693 website visitors and 651,259 page views," Lucius wrote.

"As a result, our city website slowed down and became unresponsive," the city said.

Collier County EMS and the city of Marco Island will hold a COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Mackle Park for Florida residents who are 65 or older and healthcare workers with direct patient contact, the city announced Tuesday.

The website of the city of Marco Island crashed at 2 p.m., Jan. 27, 2021, as people tried to make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The website came back online approximately 30 minutes later. Collier County EMS and the city of Marco Island will hold a COVID-19 vaccine clinic Friday at Mackle Park for Florida residents who are 65 or older and healthcare workers with direct patient contact.

The city instructed Florida residents to visit its website at 2 p.m., Wednesday, and to click on a red banner on the top of the page to make the reservations on Eventbrite, an event management and ticketing website.

At 2 p.m., the city also shared the Eventbrite link on its social media accounts. At approximately 2:15 p.m., the city announced on social media all 200 appointment slots were full.

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The website came back online at approximately 2:27 p.m.

"Some people were still able to access the Eventbrite page and make a reservation through the city’s website or through the link posted on our city social media sites," the city said.

April Smith, RN, prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccine distribution run by the Collier Department of Health at North Collier Regional Park.

When asked what will be done differently next time, McNees wrote he does not know whether the city will do a third COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

"It remains to be seen whether we have a next time as long as there are only 200 doses available," McNees wrote.

Phone lines were busy

The city's website was not the only thing that took a hit. 

"Due to the website challenges, over 9,000 residents called City Hall between 2:00-3:00 p.m. causing all of our phone lines to be in use at the same time which defaulted to a busy signal for callers," the city wrote.

"The city is following state of Florida and Department of Health protocols for vaccine distribution and will continue to communicate updates with the community as we receive more information and more vaccine supplies from the state and the county," the city wrote.

People who were able to make the vaccine appointment must bring proof of Florida residency and a reservation ticket to receive the vaccine, and healthcare workers must bring their work identification, the city announced Tuesday. It will be a walk-up site and masks must be worn at all times.

What is considered "proof of residency?"

Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Christopher Byrne said Wednesday morning the vaccines are free and that no medical insurance information is necessary. He said people who are not eligible will be turned away.

"If someone under the age of 65 or someone who is not a healthcare worker makes an appointment, they will be turned around. They will not be allowed to be vaccinated," Byrne said.

Collier County EMS Chief Tabatha Butcher wrote in an email Wednesday morning her agency has an agreement with the Department of Health to assist with vaccinations.

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"We receive vaccinations from Department of Health and then we work with our partners to set up vaccination sites," Butcher wrote. 

Butcher wrote EMS is in charge of bringing the vaccinations and assuring the paperwork is completed, and the city sets up the logistics of sign up and location.

On Jan. 22, the city and Collier EMS administered more than 200 doses at Veterans' Community Park. The appointment slots were filled within three minutes of being made available online on Jan. 20, according to the city.

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