Orange County’s vaccine app needs its own shot in the arm

If you’ve tried scheduling a COVID vaccine through OC Health Care’s Othena app, you’re familiar with waiting room hell. (Or maybe it’s purgatory.) Around 314,500 people are stuck in it now, hoping — but never confirming — they’re in line for a vaccine.

Once you sign up, you’re placed into a digital waiting room. Then you wait to hear. And wait, and wait. The app doesn't tell you when you can expect a slot to open up. But you have to be ready to drop everything in case an alert comes through.

You have just four hours to make an appointment from the time you’re notified of eligibility. If you miss your window, Othena will give the slot to someone else. If you miss three windows, you’ll be kicked out of the queue.

If that sounds unreasonable to you, you aren’t alone. Supervisors Andrew Do, Lisa Bartlett, and Donald Wagner blasted the app on Tuesday. It has been particularly cumbersome for the senior citizens who are part of Phase 1A, they said. And for some reason, no one thought to make a version in Vietnamese or Spanish.

Supervisor Bartlett said she expects the software to be integrated with the state's new pilot app, MyTurn, some time soon. Bilingual versions are also being developed. For the front-line workers and senior citizens stuck in the waiting room, the changes can’t come soon enough.