The websites Washingtonians can use to find their vaccination records were sluggish Friday ahead of next week’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery.
The reported slowness of the sites, MyIR and MyIR Mobile, came a day after Gov. Jay Inslee announced that people who are vaccinated are eligible for a sweepstakes that includes a $1 million grand prize. Eligible contestants will be drawn from the state vaccination database.
Washington joined a number of states that have turned to lotteries in attempts to nudge people not yet vaccinated to get the life-saving shots. In addition to the $1 million giveaway on July 13, four people are set to win $250,000 each. The first winners will be announced Tuesday.
The potential to win money and prizes has people scrambling to find out whether they have been recorded in the state’s vaccine database, the Washington Immunization Information System.
Robin Shuler, 72 of Kirkland, said he got his second dose in March and could not find any record of his vaccination on the MyIR website. He said he also tried the state’s Office of Immunization and Child Profile but was routed along a phone tree before hitting a full voicemail box.
Shuler added that the lottery seems like a good way to convince people who are on the fence and to hit the governor’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of residents age 16 and older with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. So far, the state has reached 63% of that population.
“This is really a drop in the bucket for the state to try and incentivize reaching the goals, so I think it’s money well spent,” he said.
After complaints on social media, users timing out of sessions with the MyIR websites and others not being able to find their records, the state Department of Health said Friday the influx of users wasn’t a problem and that the website hadn’t crashed.
The vendor-run MyIR websites are separate from the state’s WA IIS database; they import vaccination information from the state. State officials said lottery winners will be chosen from the state’s database.
STChealth, the company behind MyIR, didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday about the issues.
If a person’s information isn’t showing up, it is likely a timing issue, said DOH spokesperson Cory Portner.
“The MyIRMobile patient record match isn’t an indicator of patient data not being in WA IIS,” he wrote. “Most likely, if someone received a vaccination from a provider in Washington state, their vaccination record was transmitted to WA IIS within 72 hours by their vaccine provider.”
For anyone to have a shot at the lottery winnings, they must be in the state’s database by 11:59 p.m. each Sunday before the Tuesday drawing dates. The state lottery and DOH say they aren’t responsible for any errors or omissions when it comes to vaccine records.
Nearly two dozen people emailed The Seattle Times, complaining that their vaccination records were not accessible online and that calling the state did not lead to a confirmation.
Durwood Gafford, 65, said he spent around an hour trying different combinations of his middle and first name to verify his vaccination record. As a programmer, he said, he found the website’s chat assistance “laughable” and it would respond with irrelevant answers.
“I lost that one hour of my life. I’ll never get that back,” he said, laughing. “The more people that are vaccinated, the better. So if it works, more power to them.”
Gafford said he is thinking about trying to confirm his vaccination through his local pharmacy or the University of Washington, where he was vaccinated.
Debby Lanka, 67, ran into similar issues with the website and phone number. If she were to win a cash prize, she said she would likely give the money to her children.
“I’m guessing I’m not eligible for the drawing next week since I can’t find any information on me,” she said.
Any state resident 18 and older is eligible for the cash prizes if they have gotten the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or one of the two-dose vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer. Those ages 12-17 can win things like tickets to sporting events or gaming systems such as an Xbox or Nintendo Switch.
The state advises residents who can’t find their records in MyIR people to call the provider who administered their vaccine or 833-829-4357, the state’s COVID-19 assistance number.