@@‘Vaccine angels’ can only do so much: US struggles to make it easier to find COVID-19 vaccination appointments..

As of Monday, Nick Muerdter had gotten 2.4 million hits on a page he launched two weeks ago to help people find open COVID-19 vaccine appointments at nearby pharmacies.

“I just wanted to simplify it, so you didn’t have to click a dozen times to find out there are no appointments available,” the Colorado programmer said.

The nation’s vaccine appointment system is broken in many places, leading to a race to find appointments that in many places works best for the lucky, the internet-savvy or the mobile.

“I have plenty of neighbors who are driving hours to get to other counties where they can get vaccinated, but not everybody can do that,” said Melissa McPheeters, a professor of health policy and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Even for those with options, sometimes the system doesn’t work at all.

In Washington, D.C., the city’s vaccination portal was down over the weekend, unable to handle a surge as more than 36,000 people tried to get access to 4,300 appointments, according to a tweet by Lindsey Parker, chief technology officer for the D.C. government.

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Tracking COVID-19 vaccine distribution by state:How many people have been vaccinated in the US?

Muerdter and others are trying to offer digital help to those without family and friends who can spend hours on the hunt for a shot when the systems function.

Despite the extraordinary success of creating three vaccines to fight COVID-19 in less than a year, America’s fragmented health system meant there was no simple, unified way to sign up to get a shot.

“Appointment scheduling has become a big issue,” said Tinglong Dai, a professor of operations management at the Johns Hopkins University school of business who has written about the problem. “It’s cruel when people have to suffer through this because the government isn’t doing the hard work.”

In a news conference Monday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients acknowledged the problem.

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