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Signed Parents up for Vaccines in Seattle - Process & Observations
This morning I was finally able to sign up my parents for their vaccinations (Moderna). They live in the Seattle area.

What it took:
About 10 days ago I kept the page to my parents' health provider bookmarked and refreshed the page about 10 times a day. On 3 occasions, the screen would flash an available appointment, but by the time I entered their information and clicked submit, the slot was gone.

Frustrated, after reviewing the web page (provided by the city) of all the providers in their county, I created a page with links to the most promising 8 locations in their county, and about 10 times a day, would click through the 10 links looking for an opening.

On about the 3rd day of doing this, this morning, I saw openings at a traveling nurse clinic. My work was just beginning. I called my parents to get their insurance information (which the website required to get to page 2) and then began a process of trying to reserve time slots. Slots were available on Fri, Mon and Tue, and you had to pick 2 time slots (1st shot and 2nd shot 1 month later, so if you picked Fri 2/5 you'd also schedule your second shot on Fri 3/5). The problem was you'd pick 2 time slots and submit, and they'd tell you one of the slots was reserved, but didn't tell you which one. I tried refreshing the screen, syncing up times, trying morning times, afternoon times, late afternoon times, etc., and every time my, out of my 2 times (1st and 2nd shot), one of them wasn't available, but I didn't know which. When I checked the final day I saw it was more open and was able to schedule the 2 appointments. It took longer because I was on the phone with my parents the whole time as they checked their schedules to make sure they were free.

My observations/takeaways:
1) The one thing I like about Seattle is that most places seem to tell you in advance which vaccine you'll be getting (in my parents' case, Moderna). As we learn more about the vaccines, we should disclose which vaccine each appointment is for, as people may have valid concerns about appropriateness of a particular vaccine for their situation (age, allergies, flexibility to get 2 shots vs. 1).

2) Not surprisingly, the website UI was not designed for a high concurrency / deadlock scenario. Fortunately, the site didn't crash and it remained responsive, but it's almost broken when people are picking 2 time slots in a day because it wouldn't take too many concurrent users to create deadlocks. I like that you schedule 2 shots at once. A better system (though more complicated to implement) would be to schedule one time slot, to lock that in, then to schedule your second time slot, and if you realize it doesn't work, then you release your first slot.

3) The UI was confusing. When I initially chose a time slot for the 1st shot, it wasn't obvious to me what to do next, so I almost didn't follow the workflow through to confirmation. I think a lot of people will think they have an appointment when they do not have one, and others may quit because they are unable to complete it.

4) This gives us a window into the chaos that arises (which California is moving toward) when you have many, many providers vs. consolidating it into a few (PAMF/Kaiser/Stanford/Other). Checking many sites is time-consuming, and favors people who are very tech savvy and can keep checking frequently. I am still in favor of opening more locations (like CVS) to vaccinate more quickly, but just want us to be mindful of the problems that will come with it. Hopefully we can manage it better.

5) These are not problems that are going away. Groups 1C and 2 are even bigger. And what if later this year there are boosters for the S African/Brazilian mutation. The frenzy may begin all over again.
Sutter changed their web page at 7:40 this morning to allow 65+. I tried at 7AM and 9AM and 10:30AM. No appointments available at any time for any Sutter location.

By 10:30AM, their reservation system kept failing. It took about 5 tries to get a non-error page on the appointments.
Yesterday's data indicated they had given 20,129 first doses, 1,295 second doses, and had 4,652 appointments in the next 7 days.
M_T, did you try their app? I have heard many anecdotal cases of people generally having better luck using apps.

And, from a technical perspective, I can see why apps could have an edge — a lot of the UI and logic could be baked into the app so you’d need fewer hits to a server. Plus, browsers have timeout/error thresholds that an app could override.
No, I didn't try the app.

I do think that the county's idea of the allocations being exclusive of the health providers may have been incorrect. 12 hours or so after I posted my analysis that suggested a problem such as that, the county opened up to all residents.

(I don't have any reason to believe my analysis lead to the county's change. Someone else could have done the same analysis and come to the same conclusion.)
By the way, when I finished with the appointment system today, I sent in two suggestions for how their system could be improved.

Snorlax, if you can figure out how to make suggestions to the process you experienced, you may be doing a favor to all those that will come after you.
My wife (66yo, PAMF/Sutter patient) was able to get through on the app around 10am today. Took a few tries and some flexibility regarding location but she ended up with an appointment tomorrow afternoon in Modesto.
Great to hear. Good luck.

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