fb-pixel Skip to main content

Behind the state’s ill-fated PrepMod deal

Tate said she takes responsibility for last week’s failures in the vaccine scheduling system. But her organization was not responsible for the main portal the state uses to direct residents to vaccine locations, Vaxfinder.mass.gov.
Tate said she takes responsibility for last week’s failures in the vaccine scheduling system. But her organization was not responsible for the main portal the state uses to direct residents to vaccine locations, Vaxfinder.mass.gov.SAUL MARTINEZ/NYT

The much-maligned package of software programs that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is using for residents to schedule COVID-19 vaccine shots has cost more than $400,000, according to documents released by the Baker administration this week.

The programs were among the technology tools, including the state’s main website for finding vaccines, that wilted under sudden, heavy traffic last week when some 1 million residents 65 and older or with two chronic illnesses became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

One portion of that technology was purchased from the Maryland Partnership for Prevention (MPFP) a nonprofit founded in 1999 to develop software to manage immunization campaigns. In August, the state paid a total of $438,531 for the partnership’s PrepMod program, which is used to manage vaccine distribution and appointment scheduling at hundreds of clinics statewide, and two related vaccine software programs to manage distribution and scheduling: ReadiConsent, and ClinicWizard.,

Advertisement



Massachusetts bought the software through an intermediary, SHI Technologies, a New Jersey technology reseller that says it’s the nation’s largest business owned by people of color, with expected 2020 revenue of $11 billion.

MPFP founder Tiffany Tate said the price of the software depends on the estimated number of citizens who will use it. The State of Pennsylvania, which also purchased PrepMod, paid $852,000, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, while The Seattle Times reports that Washington state paid about $400,000, roughly the same as Massachusetts. Both states have reported multiple problems with PrepMod, such as mistakes in scheduling and allowing ineligible people to sign up for vaccines.

Tate said she takes responsibility for last week’s failures in the vaccine scheduling system. But her organization was not responsible for the main portal the state uses to direct residents to vaccine locations, Vaxfinder.mass.gov.

Vaxfinder was created recently, in response to critics who said the previous scheduling system was too complex and confusing. The site was built by the state’s COVID-19 Response Command Center, in cooperation with Project Beacon, an organization launched by the Broad Institute, a research lab affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Advertisement



Despite its high-tech pedigree, the Vaxfinder site collapsed for several hours Thursday morning, under the onslaught of new traffic. Project Beacon did not respond to requests for comment.

The site was running smoothly Tuesday, but there were hardly any vaccine doses available anywhere in the state. The next big test will come when more supplies of vaccine arrive, or when people in the next category of eligible residents are allowed to schedule their vaccinations.

Tate, meanwhile, is in a dispute with Deloitte over a rival software program the consulting giant developed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that she said is a copycat of PrepMod. The CDC has offered the Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS, to local governments at no charge, but it too has come under criticism. Only nine states have chosen the Deloitte program. MPFP has has threatened legal action against Deloitte.



Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.