Unauthorized vaccine scheduling link leads to canceled appointments on Long Island

Coronavirus update for Long Island

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Saturday, January 16, 2021
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Stacey Sager reports on lthe ink that was erroneously shared to the public and put out on social media.

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- New Yorkers who thought they had made an appointment for a COVID vaccine at Stony Brook University Hospital were shocked to learn their appointments had been suddenly canceled, apparently do to a mistakenly published link.

The general counsel for the Office of Information Technology Services said the unauthorized scheduling link was published this week.

The governor's office said it was a legitimate, internal link that was erroneously shared to the public and put out on social media, so people who had the link "had unfair advantage that others didn't."

The link not only affected residents on Long Island, but across New York State.

The following statement was released in regard to the accidental publishing:

"It has come to our attention that an unpublished scheduling link was shared without authorization on social media this week, allowing some New Yorkers to make vaccine appointments for state-operated sites that are not currently open and were not taking appointments at Binghamton, Buffalo, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Stony Brook and Utica. Out of an abundance of caution we referred this issue to the Inspector General. As this pandemic has shown, equity and equal access are critical in distributing the vaccine, and to ensure these principles are followed all unauthorized appointments have been voided - we are currently contacting everyone who used the unauthorized link to inform them of the situation. We will continue to safeguard all New Yorkers' information and ensure equal access to the vaccine for everyone eligible. As a reminder, the only way to sign up for vaccinations at State-operated locations is through the Department of Health's Am I Eligible website."

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Those who had made appointments with this link are being informed that their appointments are not valid, and officials say no one who signed up for these vaccines received one. The appointments were for sites that had not been set up yet, an official said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the site was supposed to go live on Friday, and to give everyone a fair shot at the spots, the appointments were wiped and became available at the time they were supposed to be made available.

"It's not the first time it happened," Cuomo said. "There was a similar case in New York City. Someone put out a notification that there was going to be a vaccination site and people swarmed to the site."

The governor's top aide, Melissa DeRosa, said that it's speculated that the site got hacked or someone leaked the link.

"It's going to be a bigger problem than that unfortunately when you have 7 million people and you have such a limited supply, it creates anxiety, fraud, black market," Cuomo said. "You'll see people on the internet saying they'll sell the vaccine. You'll see some vials sold. I would wager on it because they are valuable. You will see hacking, fraud, theft. It's almost predictable, as ugly and unfortunate as it is."

He added that he has the state attorney general keeping an eye out for such situations.

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Cuomo added that most appointments in the state were being booked up to 14 weeks in advance, and most distributors are fully booked.

The state is hoping for more federal allocation.

"The federal government created a crisis by increasing the eligibility, but not increasing the supply," Cuomo said.

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