Microsoft System Blamed for New Jersey Vaccine-Booking Glitches

New Jersey officials are blaming Microsoft systems that were supposed to help vaccination efforts for allegedly glitching over the past five weeks, hindering the ability for a smooth vaccination rollout in the state. 

The state’s Microsoft system for running the vaccination rollout has had issues daily from booking appointments to losing registrations, state government officials told Bloomberg News

State officials blamed issues they said seem to stem from Microsoft not having enough employees staffed to deal with the issues and having employees in time zones that make them unavailable to help during business hours.

Vaccination rollout has been a major operation for states struggling to keep track of vaccinations and standardize strict guidelines for who medical facilities are allowed to vaccinate. 

Microsoft told Bloomberg that they know of some issues with the system in New Jersey, but did not comment further. 

“We are working with the state of New Jersey to deliver vaccinations as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, and that includes addressing some technical issues,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Hospital and county websites have picked up the slack in New Jersey where the Microsoft system has failed, Bloomberg reported. More than 1.2 million vaccinations have reportedly been scheduled in the state. 

New Jersey was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 700,000 confirmed cases and more than 22,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

Joe Biden is still aiming for 100 million people to be vaccinated within his first 100 days in office, but the process has been difficult, involving delivery delays, scheduling issues and vaccine hesitancy.

By Lexi Lonas

Tags MicrosoftJoe BidenNew Jerseycoronavirus vaccineCoronavirus

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now

Five weeks of stumbles by Microsoft Corp. on New Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccine-booking software have left the state pushing for daily fixes on almost every part of the system and doubting it will ever operate as intended, according to members of Governor Phil Murphy’s administration. The glitches — and attempted fixes that forced one megasite to go off-line temporarily — have led New Jersey to rely more on the county- and hospital-operated websites that are working well and have helped schedule more than 1.2 million doses in the most densely-populated state in the country.

Officials say those systems are successfully booking thousands of people. They fear the state’s booking portal, run on Microsoft software and functioning for just a limited number of residents, won’t withstand broad demand as eligibility eventually is opened to millions of more people. Health care has become a major focus for Microsoft, which unveiled a package of industry-specific cloud software in May. The world’s largest software company, which has hired executives with medical backgrounds, also has been researching machine learning and artificial intelligence tools for areas including clinical trials and patient care. In late January, the Redmond, Washington-based company touted its Microsoft Vaccination Management platform — usable by those seeking shots and by health providers — to register, schedule, track supplies and otherwise streamline the biggest inoculation effort in U.S. history.

The platform has yet to work correctly for New Jersey in the state’s effort to inoculate its residents against the coronavirus, according to two administration officials who asked not to be identified discussing contractual issues. Governor Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli acknowledged there was an issue with Microsoft in a Feb. 10 briefing, but didn’t go into detail about the problems. Since the state’s CovidVaccine.nj.gov website went live Jan. 5, the software has booked thousands of appointments. But it’s also blocked users, lost registrations, double-booked residents and crashed for periods of five minutes to three days, the officials said. Though Microsoft has worked daily on the troubles, the officials said they had no confidence that they’ll get all the features called for in its contract with the company. In a statement, Microsoft acknowledged difficulties with booking shots but didn’t specify the problems. “We are working with the state of New Jersey to deliver vaccinations as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, and that includes addressing some technical issues,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.

The New Jersey officials declined to say whether the state is considering canceling the Microsoft contract, but said they are seeking solutions and workarounds of all kinds. The cost of the contract wasn’t readily available. New Jersey was among the earliest and hardest-hit U.S. states by Covid-19, recording almost 21,000 deaths with a lab-confirmed link to the disease caused by the coronavirus. Murphy, a first-term Democrat running for re-election this year, has committed to vaccinating 4.7 million people, or 70% of the state’s population, by late June. So far, New Jersey has administered nearly 1.2 million doses, representing a tenth of the population who have received at least one dose, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. State officials said Microsoft appears to be using too few staffers, with some key personnel in overseas time zones that leave them unavailable during U.S. business hours. The officials said they’ve conferred with other states using versions of the same software, which is built on the Microsoft Dynamics customer-relationship management platform.

The task appears to be going smoother, they said, in places that asked for fewer applications — just scheduling, say, rather than more complex services. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm​ Bloomberg Quicktake brings you live global news and original shows spanning business, technology, politics and culture. Make sense of the stories changing your business and your world. To watch complete coverage on Bloomberg Quicktake 24/7, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/qt/live​, or watch on Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Fire TV and Android TV on the Bloomberg app. Have a story to tell? Fill out this survey for a chance to have it featured on Bloomberg Quicktake: https://cor.us/surveys/27AF30​ Connect with us on… YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bloomberg​ Breaking News on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BloombergQu…​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/quicktake​ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quicktake​ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quicktake

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