CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Board of Health said Thursday that the agency will soon issue cancellation notices for COVID-19 vaccine appointments after a link to an online sign-up site was mistakenly shared on social media.
Health Commissioner Terry Allan estimated somewhere in the ballpark of "a couple thousand" people signed up for COVID-19 vaccines after following a link that was only intended to be sent to qualifying recipients that are part of Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan.
"This link that we sent out to specific Phase 1A providers was unfortunately shared more broadly in the community. We don't believe this was done with any malicious intent," Allan said. "We actually closed down that link when we realized it more broadly and unintentionally shared beyond the intended Phase 1A group."
Chalking it up to a 'bump in the road' amid the start of a massive logistical endeavor, Allan said the online sign up website, which featured the county's seal and logo, will feature additional screening measures and pre-registration form in order to sign up. Overall though, Allan said the online sign-up software was working as designed.
"This will also help us with our reminder process because, as you recall, with the specific Moderna vaccine, there needs to be 28 days between the first dose and the second dose," Allan said. "We have to account for what will be a historic, logistical undertaking that, frankly, is unprecedented. The early stages of any process of this magnitude are understandably bumpy. We're at that stage right now and we're still learning."
The link to the online sign-up page was quickly shared in group chats and social media. Sarah Hannibal of Pepper Pike said she signed up her elderly parents for the vaccine distribution but then later worried that the link might have been a scam. Although she later learned the link and the county's website are perfectly legitimate, Hannibal worried that she might have been duped.
“I thought this is crazy. How come we aren't first responders? How come my 40-year-old friends are signing up?” Hannibal said. "I'm a skeptic, which is why I was kicking myself for singing up. But then you're thinking, 'it's my older parents and I want them to get the vaccine.'"
Under Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan, only a select but large group of people are elligible to receive the vaccine. That list includes medical workers that tend to COVID-19 patients; residents and staff at nursing homes; residents and staff at assisted care facilities; residents and staff at psychiatric facilities; residents and staff at group homes for those with mental illness or developmental disabilities. The CCBH began administering the vaccine to EMS workers this week at three different events in Shaker Heights, Independence and Westlake. Allan said 1800 of the county's 4000 allotment of the Moderna vaccine have been distributed.
Although her attempts to register her parents for the vaccine were for naught, Hannibal said the process left her encouraged.
"One thing that I thought was great was the positivity of, one, believing it was true and, two, people wanted to get the vaccine so badly," Hannibal said.