Around 1:40 p.m., today, I rolled up my sleeve at the CVS on Harrison Avenue near Boston Medical Center and got a Moderna shot (double comorbidities for the, um, win). It all was simple and quick - the longest part of the whole thing was just sitting there afterwards for 15 minutes to make sure I didn't suffer a reaction.
But it only happened because people with programming skills are churning out ways to get around the state's brain-dead vaccination signup system, the one that, when it's not crashing because of capacity issues, is making you fill out the same damn personal-information form repeatedly in the hopes that, maybe, this time, there will still be a slot left for you at the end.
In my case, a guy named Ben Cohen got tired of repeatedly refreshing the CVS Covid-19 Web site to find appointments for some relatives, so he wrote some software, which he modestly described as "the biggest pile of spaghetti code all the way down" that would periodically check the site for new openings and then send text messages to people who had signed up for alerts on his site for new slots in a particular state (he's since expanded his site to include Walgreens and Rite Aid as well).
He posted about this a couple days ago in a Reddit forum about Coronavirus in Massachusetts, where my daughter saw it, went to his site and signed up for Massachusetts alerts.
At 6:16 a.m. on Friday, she got a text from the system that a bunch of CVS slots had just dropped. Now, I was asleep then, so she took the initiative to sign me up for one - the very next day, no less. She knew from my yammering the night before I'd tried and failed, several times, to find something on the state site, the last three times particularly frustratingly so, because I managed to get to the point where you're supposed to fill out all sorts of information about yourself (from allergy information to your health insurer), and at one point, even got to the page where you get to pick a specific slot, only to be told on hitting Submit that no appointments were available.
By the time I did finally wake up, I had e-mail from CVS confirming my appointment - and my next one in a month.
All well and good for me and now I have one of those vaccine cards (and, of course, an appointment for the second shot). But, thank goodness we have a relatively technoaware household going on here. I'm going to bet most people eligible for shots now are not reading Reddit forums and that they don't know about Cohen's project (let alone the other home-grown workaround sites) and damn it, this is Massachusetts, not West Virginia - which, in fact, has a perfectly fine signup system, built by a company headquartered in Burlington.
WBZ reports the state hopes to roll out a new feature in the present system that lets somebody "hold" a vaccination slot through the registration process so they don't have to waste their time answering a page of questions only to be told no appointments are left (it's a system familiar to anybody who's ever tried to buy Red Sox tickets online, at least back in the glory days). Timeline? "In the next several weeks."