After thousands of Islanders rushed to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital website to register for a vaccine appointment last weekend, hospital officials said the process went well and that they would continue to open new slots on a weekly basis every Saturday at 8 a.m. into the foreseeable future.
Vaccines are currently available for Islanders 65 and older, as well as those with two or more underlying conditions and residents of low income housing. Eligible Islanders were able to register for appointments this week using a new, online tool Saturday morning.
At a press briefing Wednesday, hospital leaders said they saw a whopping 9,000 user touches on the hospital website when appointments opened Saturday, filling up more than 1,200 available slots in less than an hour. Officials expected that a large portion of the traffic was from family members and other Islanders who were not eligible for a shot, but were curious about the process.
While officials confirmed that some off-Island residents had registered through the system, they said it was not a significant enough number to have an impact on vaccine supply.
Reflecting on the experience, officials said a few minor technical glitches had been identified and would be remedied when a new batch of appointments opens next Saturday morning.
“I’m pleased to report that our first week is going very well,” hospital CEO Denise Schepici said. “We made a couple of fixes and we are hopeful that they will clear up any issues folks faced last Saturday.”
Ms. Schepici said the hospital had completed back-end site work that will lower the rate of error messages, which blocked some users from scheduling appointments last Saturday. She recommended that individuals who are not registered with Patient Gateway sign up prior to Saturday morning to simplify the scheduling process.
Ms. Schepici said the hospital chose Saturday morning at 8 to release appointments because the state doles out its weekly vaccine allotment on Friday.
“We know everyone wants to get their doses right away. This is why we ask for your patience as we move as quickly as we can to deliver based on what we get from the state,” Ms. Schepici said. “We’re trying to get to everyone, but it will take time, probably a few weeks in this phase.”
The hospital has vaccinated more than 3,300 Islanders with their first dose shots, head of operations Claire Seguin said Wednesday, and planned to complete more than 600 additional vaccinations this week.
According to a rough estimate by the hospital, there are a total of 5,000 Island residents eligible for the vaccine in the 65-plus age group, with about a quarter of them scheduled for their first shots this week. The hospital is using 19,500 as a rough estimate for the current Island population, based on Steamship Authority and patient data.
Ms. Schepici said she did not expect more vaccination sites to pop up on the Vineyard as availability broadens to wider swaths of the population, and said she was confident the hospital would be able to handle the load in the coming weeks.
“I have every bit of confidence in this team,” Ms. Schepici said. “They are knocking it out of the park.”
Meanwhile, case counts have declined in recent weeks both on-Island and statewide. Health agents reported only one new case of the virus on Wednesday, with the individual tested at the hospital.
There is currently one patient hospitalized with the virus. Ms. Seguin said Wednesday that the patient is in good condition. The hospital also transferred a Covid-positive patient to a Boston hospital this week, but for a non-Covid related reason, Ms. Seguin said.
“We still don’t know a lot about this virus and we certainly don’t know a lot about variants yet, so I just keep saying, don’t let your guard down,” Ms. Schepici said. “But I am cautiously optimistic that things are changing.”
To book a vaccine appointment on Saturday morning, click here.