Confusion at Norfolk vaccination clinic when people with appointments are turned away

Posted at 4:55 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 19:56:53-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Hundreds of people with emails confirming their appointments to get vaccinated were turned away from a vaccine clinic at Military Circle Mall on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health said.

The confusion happened when people used links that were forwarded to them to sign up for vaccine appointments. They got emails confirming their appointments for Thursday, but say they were turned away when they arrived for their scheduled slots.

"I'm really disappointed," said Margo McFarland, who has signed up her 82-year-old aunt but was told the appointment was invalid. "I have to go tell my aunt she isn't going to get the vaccine. She's 82 and she's really, really upset."

Paul Brumund, the Chief Operations Officer for the Norfolk Health Department, said hundreds of people showed up Thursday and had to be turned away. "It was not appropriate for them to [forward the links]. The link kept getting shared, and more and more people were doing this," he said.

People who were scheduled were frustrated the system even allowed them to sign up and receive a confirmation email. "I don't understand how the system can be that screwed up. I don't," said McFarland.

VDH is now working to fix this issue, but it could still take a few days. Going forward, links will only allow one sign-up per link.

"I do understand the frustration with the perception that they did register, but the invitation was not for them. That's the frustration they're feeling. They get here and they don't really have an appointment because somebody forwarded them a link that they shouldn't have done," said Brumund.

Statewide, Virginia is moving away from the template from the federal government, which created this vaccine scheduling system.

Related: List of Hampton Roads and surrounding areas COVID-19 vaccination plans

"We are on-boarding a new registration platform that will allow more accuracy and control over that to make sure that doesn’t happen and to make sure that those essential work groups that are in 1b can really be prioritized for upcoming events," said Dr. Danny Avula, who is overseeing the vaccine rollout for VDH.

Now, hundreds of people are back in the waiting line after being turned away.

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