Vaccination Appointment Struggles
Overloaded servers and unusable phone lines while trying to get a vaccination appointment for my grandmother
Since yesterday, vaccination appointments can be made in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany. In the first group are senior citizens age 80 and above, including my grandmother. So alongside a million other people, I tried to get an appointment for her. As expected, however, the servers were completely overloaded and kept crashing. Another problem in the long list of issues in the German vaccine rollout.
Very expected errors
Last week, letters were sent out to the people in the first vaccination group informing them that appointment booking was going to start at 8 am on Monday morning. However, the letters didn’t contain any PINs, passwords, or direct server addresses, so roughly a million people in the first group all rushed to a single website.
After a few page timeouts, it was possible to get through the main landing page, which only contained static information so I assume it was mirrored on multiple servers to handle the load.
It redirected to other websites depending on the responsible vaccination center. This is where the real problems started. The appointment booking servers couldn’t withstand the number of users and were completely unusable. It was impossible to get past the first one or two steps before the server would crash with an error.
It’s not like they didn’t know how much traffic they were going to get. They knew how many people were in the group and distributed to the local vaccination centers that number should have been manageable with a well-designed system. Since the first vaccine news last summer, there should have been enough time to create a working system for the appointments and vaccinations.
Although in their defense: While there haven’t been any news reports about it yet, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there were DDoS attempts by anti-vaccination groups that added to the server problems.