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Frustration mounts as NYC sidelines COVID site amid monkeypox fight

Didn’t we fix that already?

The early days of the Big Apple’s introduction of the coronavirus vaccine were plagued by incompatible computer systems provided by vendors, which frequently crashed when demand was high. So City Hall ordered a home-built system that could handle the traffic.

But that system, Vax4NYC, has inexplicably stayed on the shelf while the Department of Health has once again opted to use vendors whose technology can’t keep up with the demand for monkeypox vaccination appointments, frustrating activists and former city officials.

“It’s amazing that a year after striving to make vaccinations work, the city is repeating every single mistake,” said a frustrated former city official. “The city can’t control how many monkey vaccinations they get. But they can control if they have a website that doesn’t crash.”

The chorus of frustration reached a crescendo after computer problems plagued DOHMH’s attempt to free slots for all three rounds of monkeypox dates offered so far.

Pressure is mounting for local and state agencies to rethink their response to the monkeypox outbreak as cases continue to mount amid a lack of national immunizations, repeated computer system crashes and widespread complaints about access to tests and antivirals to treat infections .

A long line of people wait to receive the monkeypox vaccine at the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic in Manhattan on July 8, 2022.
A long line of people wait to receive the monkeypox vaccine at the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic in Manhattan on July 8, 2022.
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Case counts in the Big Apple totaled 336 reported cases on Wednesday, up 113 from the 223 reported Monday.

“With the second monkeypox vaccine outage in as many weeks, we should be wondering why the city isn’t using the excellent vax4nyc site. Is it a property issue? Is a sourcing issue,” asked Huge Ma, who created the hugely popular TurboVax website that helped New Yorkers look for COVID shots during the first frustrating days of this launch.

“Vax4NYC has been tested and proven for over a year and we should now adapt it for monkeypox. There’s no doubt about it,” said Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President, who chaired the City Council’s Public Health Committee for the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

DOHMH officials have repeatedly brushed aside questions about repurposing the COVID vaccination system, arguing that a system designed to manage appointments for a two-dose vaccine regimen and treat dozens of sites at once (COVID) is inadequate for handling A two-dose vaccine would be ill-suited to regimens offered at three sites (monkeypox).

Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan repeated these claims when asked by reporters why he chose not to simply adapt the COVID system after DOHMH provider Affiliated Physicians’ computer system collapsed.

“It’s a different endeavor,” Vasan said when hounded by reporters at an event in the Bronx. “This is a city-wide mass immunization program connected to massive infrastructure.”

Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine system was not suitable for the monkeypox crisis.
Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine system was not suitable for the monkeypox crisis.
Gregory P. Mango

He added that DOH “is building a more robust infrastructure for vaccine appointments as we speak” and that it is “working closely with the agency” that developed Vax4NYC.

Experts and former city officials told The Post the argument makes little sense, given that a system capable of supporting citywide vaccination efforts could easily handle the monkeypox program.

“Of course they could take it off the shelf,” said a second former official, who laughed out loud upon learning of DOHMH’s statement.

Vax4NYC was built by city programmers and contractors from the then Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in just two weeks after being commissioned by then Mayor Bill de Blasio.

His administration responded to fierce criticism from across the spectrum in early 2021, as disparate and disconnected computer systems operated by private city providers were plagued by frequent crashes and often overwhelmed by traffic as distraught New Yorkers sought after the first doses of the COVID-19 looking for a vaccine.

The agency, now merged with the Bureau of Technology and Innovation, did not respond to questions Wednesday about what involvement, if any, it had in the fight against monkeypox.

A total of 336 cases of monkeypox were reported in New York City on Wednesday.
A total of 336 cases of monkeypox were reported in New York City on Wednesday.
Photo by Steve Sanchez/Sipa USA

The public push is coming Vasan’s agency experienced its third collapse after changing vendors running the monkeypox shot program over the weekend.

DOHMH’s former provider, MedRite, also had trouble handling web traffic and accidentally published appointments too early, resulting in a free-for-all.

Public health experts said the run on the DOH’s registry systems was likely exacerbated by the nationwide monkeypox vaccine shortage.

New York City will have received only about 21,000 shots of the two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine by the end of the week, enough to fully vaccinate fewer than 12,000 people in a city of 8.8 million.

A million ready-to-ship shots in national stockpile are stuck in Denmark after the US Food and Drug Administration refused to import them after failing to inspect the facility – and refusing to accept European Union permits because they use the same standards fulfilled it does not perform the checks.

“[I]If the FDA can’t approve this in the next few days, Biden should override the FDA and accept the EU’s certification,” Council Member Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) tweeted, joining the chorus of city leaders calling for the FDA permits recordings transported.

In response to questions from The Post, which sought additional clarification after Vasan’s comments Wednesday, DOHMH officials argued that “even adapting existing infrastructure can present challenges.”

“Work has already been done to utilize our COVID appointment scheduling system and we hope to have it ready by the next round of appointments,” added spokesman Patrick Gallahue.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/13/frustration-builds-as-nyc-leaves-covid-site-on-sidelines-in-monkeypox-fight/ Frustration mounts as NYC sidelines COVID site amid monkeypox fight

JACLYN DIAZ

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