BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health said a COVID-19 vaccine registration link sent to a small number of essential employees was widely shared. This caused frustration and confusion for people who had a vaccine appointment, but couldn't get the vaccine.
“There's a lot of teachers out there that are still looking for shots, still looking for vaccines,” Bryan Flynn said.
Bryan Flynn is one of them. He's a Buffalo Public Schools Special Education teacher for social studies. He had an appointment for Monday at the Erie County run ECC South POD, but him and other teachers, who are eligible to receive the vaccine under NYS guidelines, later learned they weren't eligible for that site.
“Some of them took half days off of school to go and get an appointment, or go get a vaccine, and they got there and they were told they weren’t eligible,” Flynn said.
Flynn said a teacher sent him the registration link. The page said it's for 1B essential employees, specifically police, fire, security, and transit. Flynn thought it was an oversight and the list of employees wasn't updated, which he said was what happened when his wife registered for the vaccine elsewhere.
A spokesperson for the Erie County Department of Health said that was essentially a closed POD for first responders, law enforcement, and public transit workers.
ECDOH said it sent the link to a small group of workers and told them not to share it with anyone. The spokesperson said on site staff have been told the link is being shared widely, in some instances to entire school district staff lists.
“It’s impossible to find it, so you get excited when you actually find an appointment, and then to have it ripped out from underneath you because they’re limiting it to only specific groups within the full eligibility is in my mind, it's ridiculous,” Flynn said.
The spokesperson said not every POD is open to all eligible people.
"Any confusion today was caused by people who forwarded links and disregarded the instructions not to forward those links," said ECDOH spokesperson Kara Kane. "We worked with municipalities specifically to coordinate these PODs for first responder and public transit groups, as they have had difficulty getting to our scheduled PODs."
People who received the link, whether it was intended for them or not, were able to make an appointment.
In February, the county said it's not been happy with the state's registration system and is working with Microsoft to develop its own version.
7 Eyewitness News asked if the new system will have closed POD links that require a password or can only be accessible to specific emails, something a local cyber security expert said can be done. ECDOH said it will have more details closer to when the system rolls out.
“My big feeling right now is frustration of course," Flynn said. "My wife has some has some health issues, I want to make sure I get this vaccine to make sure that she doesn’t have any issues.”
As for unused doses from open appointments or people who didn't show up, ECDOH said towards the end of the day it starts matching doses to remaining people scheduled.
"Starting about 2 hours before the end of a clinic, we limit the number of syringes distributed to vaccination stations, look at number of people still on the schedule, and our clinic managers make sure the amount of open vials and available doses match roughly with the number of people scheduled," said Kane. "In the event there are doses remaining, we have a standby list of people who can make it to our site before we close. That number is generally under 10, if any."
ECDOH said no designated teacher PODs are planned for this week, which is as far out as PODs are being scheduled.