Why vax hunters are pulling their hair out…

And, how at least one retail pharmacy has “broken the code” for doing it right.

Yesterday, we showcased a vaccine scheduling invitation that I received from the Maryland Department of Health.

See How would you respond to this vaccination invitation?

We called it well-intended, but another  “not-so-great moment in direct marketing” because…

It was an anonymous email (sender was “your vaccination provider”) with a cryptic “no reply” email address. The vaccination site address googles to a gambling casino … and the recipient is instructed to click a link.

Our conclusion:

If that doesn’t set off safe computing alarm bells in your head, you should immediately close your browser and never open it again.

All of the critical warning signs for a scam email are there!

That’s too bad, because it is a legit “invitation” via Maryland’s brand new state-central vaccine scheduling system.

Unfortunately, this auto-generated email is representative of well intentioned but shoddy work that has plagued the vaccine roll-out … causing much consumer confusion.

OK, that was yesterday.

Last night, since I hadn’t scheduled an appointment, “the system” auto-generated a follow-up email reminder.

Satisfied from yesterday’s experience, that the email was probably legit, I clicked through as directed.

Here’s what I got:


The good news: it was well-identified as coming from the Maryland Department of Health’s new PrepMod system.

The bad news: After teasing me with the “schedule now” email, I got a message informing me that “Clinic does not have any appointment slots available”.

The obvious question: Why doesn’t the system check for availability before hitting the send button on the “get off your duff” email.

That’s simple system design logic.

Note: I checked the link as soon as the email arrived, so it wasn’t likely a matter of the appointments filling between the time of the email and my check-in.

My intention isn’t to pile on the state’s well intentioned effort to centralize vaccine scheduling.

It’s just a handy example of how and why people who are frantically trying to get vaccinated are frustrated.

My advice: Inject a modicum of quality control before going “live” with a high visibility system.

Stop treating an anxious public as beta test subjects.


P.S. This example isn’t the worst case that I’ve encountered.

One retail pharmacy’s scheduling system has previously kept me waiting for up to an hour “in queue” …  watching an animated  stickman walk slowly across the screen …  before giving me the “no vaccine available within 30 miles of your zip code” message.

The best: CVS (where I ended up getting vaccinated).

The first CVS screen just instructed: “Click on your state” … the second screen displayed all Maryland store locations, indicating “available” or “fully booked” … third screen asked for a zip code … enter the zip for a store that had availability and BINGO … I was in the scheduling sequence with a slot held for 10 minutes while I entered insurance and consent information.

From that point, the process was a cake walk … immediate confirmation by text & email … reminder message a couple of days before the appointment (which reassured me that CVS still had me in their system)… a text message on the morning of the appointment with a link to “check in online when you get to the store” … which then pulled up all my info for the admission checker and vaccinator – saving mucho in-store processing time.

My question: Why didn’t Maryland just jack CVS’s system?

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