Walgreens Vaccine Sign-Up Page Falters Amid Heavy Volume

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine signup page couldn’t be accessed by some users Tuesday as people rushed to secure an appointment.

Clicking the link to search for a shot turned up an “updates in progress” message. The page then appeared to work until a user clicked on “sign in” and received an error message saying the service was currently unavailable.

The online scheduler was temporarily down because of an influx of user volume, Walgreens spokeswoman Kelli Teno said in an email.

The site was up and running again at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and Walgreens confirmed in the afternoon that it was stable and working as intended “as of now.”

The problems came just days before Walgreens is set to expand Covid-19 immunizations across the U.S. through a federal program that will send 1 million doses of vaccines to almost two dozen pharmacy chains.

Frustrated Users

Some people who said they were trying to use the Walgreens site expressed frustration on social media Tuesday about not being able to access it, including Tim McBreen, 70, who lives in Naperville, Illinois.

McBreen received an email Tuesday morning from Walgreens notifying him that appointments were available nearby. His doctors the day before told him he’s eligible to be vaccinated after considering whether it would be appropriate given the immunotherapy treatment he’s receiving for mesothelioma, he said.

He logged onto the Walgreens app on his phone, clicked the button to get started, “and it went into lala land,” said McBreen, who worked in technology before retiring.

“I’ve already wasted an entire year not being able to see my kids and family, just my wife and I are here together, it’s very, very frustrating when you finally get a chance and you get it taken away,” he said.

Walgreens apologized for the inconvenience in response to questions about its preparations and how it will ensure the issues do not arise again.

Signup Issues

The company also faced questions about a batch of appointments in Ohio that were canceled by local managers who said vaccines weren’t available.

After refreshing the site repeatedly, Carol Chillik, 73, of New Franklin, Ohio, was able to book appointments for herself and her husband when they became available at her local Walgreens store Monday night. She said it felt like Christmas, until this morning when she woke up to a voicemail message from the store manager.

He said that the appointments had been made available in Ohio by mistake, and no vaccine was available at the store.

“It’s a horrendous job that he’s got calling everybody,” Chillik said. “They’re all going to be upset and there’s just nothing you can do.”

Walgreens said customers in Ohio were mistakenly informed it would not be possible to fulfill their appointment. The company said it is “committed to honoring vaccination appointments that have been scheduled” and is in the process of confirming appointments.

From crashed websites, queues clogged with thousands of people and systems unprepared to account for doses shipped and administered, technical issues have roiled the U.S. vaccination campaign since it began in December. The Trump and Biden administrations have touted pharmacies as avenues to offer vaccinations at thousands of convenient locations across the country.

The Walgreens signup page has been criticized by some users for being overly complicated. In response, the company has been making updates every few days.

Sites of other pharmacy chains participating in the federal program appeared functional ahead of the launch, including CVS Health Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp., The Kroger Co. and Rite Aid Corp.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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