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Cyprus Vaccine Portal crashes: Minister says 20,000 users fight for vaccine choices per second

Vaccine portal overloaded by vaccine choice seekers, Minister says.

Twenty thousand users are fighting to get their vaccine of choice within a single second. That’s what is making the Vaccination Portal crash, explains Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriakos Kokkinos, in an interview with the Cyprus Mail.

In other words, it’s not the number of people booking app0intments that is crashing the portal, it’s the number of people logging in at the same time desperate to obtain their vaccine of choice. The announcement from Denmark on Thursday that it was entirely stopping the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine has exacerbated the situation.

On Friday morning, within one minute, 5,060 Pfizer vaccines were booked and only 1,362 of AstraZeneca. Action has been taken to keep the portal from crashing in the future, the minister said.

“The platform has been designed to process quite a large number of appointment requests. The initial design was for 50,000 appointments per day, which is a good number – this is over 24 hours. Then we agreed to raise that to 150,000, which is a very theoretical number because you will never have 150,000 appointments per day, the Minister made clear.

“What happened is that, because of the concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine, everyone wants to book their preferred one, Pfizer or whichever of the four choices. So everyone is logging on just as the portal opens at 7:30, and then they are all competing to book an appointment with the vaccine they want.  So it’s different to have 100,000 appointments per day versus having 20,000 users fighting against each other to book the same vaccine within a single second, or thousands more within the first 10 seconds,” Kokkinos pointed out.

Then, there is the issue of those who do not know how to use a computer.

“This raises another issue. We gave the right to people who do not know how to use a computer to trust or delegate booking an appointment on the portal to another family member, friend, their family doctor or whomever.  We did not expect this delegation right to be abused, so that people are delegating their booking to a whole group of people. In other words, if it is my turn, and I am entitled to book a vaccine today, I ask my son, my daughter, my wife, my family doctor, to fight to get me the vaccine choice I want at the same time. So what happens is that, for example, on Thursday, we had 20,000 candidates eligible to book an appointment. But we had 120,000 users fighting to book one of those appointments,” the Minister said.

The system is meant to handle 317 requests per second for the same vaccine, which should be quite sufficient, the minister continued. “With the thousands of requests per second, the platform became very slow, and we had to take it down. If you build a bridge that will accommodate let’s say, 10,000 cars per day, it doesn’t mean that this bridge is designed to stand 10,000 cars within one minute,” Kokkinos said.

The ministry will change the rules for delegating bookings, so that only one designated person can book at a time. Each user can designate a specific person and only that person will be able to log in to the portal.

.“It should be clear: The performance and the technical functionality of the system is designed is not a technical problem. It’s a technical challenge that is derived from the concurrency of the multiple users fighting for the same thing at the same time,” the minister noted.

What’s important, Kokkinos emphasised, is to get vaccinated. “Delay simply means that you will have a greater chance of being infected.  Let’s do the mathematics. Let’s say that I delay being vaccinated. I would have to wait until my turn come up again, and I might get a Pfizer vaccination after 100 days, because you have to give the opportunity to everyone. So, if we have 600 incidents per day, that means within the next 100 days, we will have roughly 60,000 people positively diagnosed.

So do you want to be one out of 10 people who get infected in the next 100 days? Or do you want to take the Astra Zeneca vaccination for which the chances are less than one in a million for some related health problem?” Kokkinos asked. He noted that in the United Kingdom, four million people have been vaccinated with Astra Zeneca.

“The risks are far greater to go without vaccination; it’s best to get it done without delay,” he concludes.

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