Thousands of ineligible individuals request COVID-19 vaccine appointments through false scheduling link

Lauren Abel and Kevin Vu

Hundreds lined up outside Gregory Gym on Monday after thousands of individuals who do not qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine made an appointment after a scheduling link was unofficially spread.

UT Health Austin was notified of an active vaccine scheduling link that was being shared through unofficial networks across the UT community, the University said in a statement on Monday. This form resulted in thousands of individuals signing up for appointments who did not follow the UT Health Austin registration process, the statement said. UT Health Austin is only vaccinating individuals in Phase 1A and Phase 1B who have completed the Vaccination Request Form

“All appointments scheduled in this manner are in the process of being canceled,” the statement said. “However, some individuals have showed up on-site today, resulting in longer than normal lines.”

Susan Hochman, associate director for assessment, communications and health information technology for University Health Services, said in an email that the link was shared by individuals who received it through the UT online scheduling system.

“The link was intended only for the use of individuals who had completed an online eligibility survey and who fit the 1A and 1B vaccination prioritization criteria as designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services,” Hochman said.

According to the UT Health Austin statement, the issue with the link was the result of the extended weather emergency. The form typically has individualized links for specific patients, but it was suspended to allow for quicker registration, though it has since been reinstated, they said.

Julie Nguyen, an administrative associate for the educational psychology department, said she received the link to register for a vaccine from a colleague who said extra vaccinations were available. Nguyen, who does not qualify for Phase 1A or 1B, said she was not given any screening questions when she made the appointment.

“When I had signed up originally, I thought it was a free for all and that you didn’t necessarily have to be in either phase because, like I said, (my colleague) had mentioned that they had vaccines they needed to get rid of,” Nguyen said. 

After some of her colleagues received cancellation emails for their appointments, Nguyen decided not to show up.

Cedar Creek resident Savannah Beauregard said she waited in line for 90 minutes after signing up with the link. She said she left when a volunteer told those in line that their appointments would be canceled if they did not complete a survey when signing up.

“From what I understand, they said that thousands more people showed up than they even expected, because they were still going through the beginning of the 9 a.m. appointments when they told us at 11 (a.m.),” Beauregard said.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's March 2 print edition.