No vaccine in history has been researched, developed and approved as rapidly as for Covid-19. While this scientific feat is an incredible achievement and a huge relief to millions around the world, it presents a new challenge – ensuring the vaccine is now distributed in a fair and accessible way across the global population as soon as possible.
This is a huge problem in the US especially. Unlike countries where vaccines are being delivered by one central organisation (in the UK’s case, the NHS), the American healthcare system is decentralised from the government level to the state and county level, and in some cases all the way to individual hospitals and clinics.
Due to the incredible demand, the limited supply of vaccine shots in each area are snapped up as soon as they become available. Creating a fair system in this situation is challenging in its own right, but this has been made even more difficult by the limitations of the technology currently in place.
Technology unable to the meet demand
The US government has provided no unified platform for allocating vaccination appointments, leaving each individual healthcare provider to deliver its own solution.
Because of the unprecedented speed at which the vaccine was approved, these technology teams were not given much notice to prepare systems capable of serving so many people.
Given the increased risk the virus poses to the elderly, who may be less tech-savvy, it’s important for these systems to be uncomplicated, reliable and fair to make the vaccine accessible to those who need it most. Unfortunately, in many instances this has not been the case, leading to frustration, disappointment and exasperation.
— andada (@andada) February 18, 2021
The process is so difficult to fathom that entrepreneurial individuals have built independent tools such as TurboVax to manually centralise available appointments for their local areas.
It is unsurprising that many local healthcare services have struggled to provide a robust solution to citizens. Many systems have either been repurposed beyond their capabilities, or immature solutions have been pushed out in a hurry to meet very tough deadlines.
Supporting IT teams under siege
The – typically small – regional healthcare IT teams often consist of generalist staff who are not equipped to build systems capable of handling the sudden crushing wave of traffic hitting these sites. One website covering vaccinations in Boston reported a surge of 70,000 requests per minute – a dramatic increase from their usual 1,000 per minute.
As a result, there are reports of websites immediately crashing under the sheer volume of traffic as soon as the booking page is shared to the community they serve. The urgency of wanting to secure a vaccination, either for oneself or a vulnerable relative, means users continually refresh pages and flood other local county websites with requests simultaneously. This makes it even less likely these sites will be accessible.
Getting in line, online for a Covid vaccine
Generally, the US technology community is very well versed in cybersecurity with many solutions available. However, this problem is distinct from a malicious attack by hackers.
Every website has a limit to how many visitors it can serve simultaneously, after which the site will buckle and crash. This is usually associated with events like Black Friday for retailers or popular concerts for ticketing websites, but it applies to any situation where demand suddenly spikes for anything online.
Because regional healthcare providers are unlikely to be able to dramatically scale up their infrastructure in a cost-effective and technically proficient way, especially at short notice and given these extreme surges in traffic, an excellent way to protect vaccine websites against overwhelming traffic and ensure a manageable flow of visitors is by utilising a virtual waiting room.
Virtual waiting rooms, such as those provided by TrafficDefender™, give the ability to place website visitors into a fair “first in, first out” queue as they attempt to enter the website. Each visitor is given their position in the queue and an estimated wait time. Once they reach the front of the line, they are allowed into the website to make their booking.
By using a virtual waiting room, vaccination websites can offload traffic into a secure system built to handle the volume of traffic comfortably before drip feeding users into their own system at a pace it can handle. This ensures everyone using the site gets a fair chance to make their vaccination booking.
Is your Covid-19 vaccination booking website getting overloaded with traffic?
TrafficDefender is a well-established, tried and tested solution trusted by some of the world’s largest retailers, ticketing businesses, travel sites and government agencies to keep their websites protected against failure during massive spikes in demand.
Whether you are US based or otherwise, we are ready to help and our solution is quick to implement on any website. Read more about our virtual waiting room and online queuing product or get in touch to find out more today.