Exclusive: Adams and Brannan call for private ticketing companies to aid NYC Vaccine Finder platform in letter to mayor

Eric Adams holds up sample of the vaccination form during a press conference on Jan. 10th
Photo by Dean Moses

Ticketmaster and other private ticketing companies are being called to the forefront of the COVID-19 battle. 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Justin Brannan have submitted a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio requesting ticketing companies manage vaccination appointment booking systems in light of online mishaps. 

For many, the COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. From thousands of deaths to countless losing their jobs, the vaccine promises to be the first step on the long road back to normalcy. However, this crucial move forward is not without its issues. The city-run Vaccine Finder platform used to facilitate appointment bookings has been met with less than stellar feedback due to an array of glitches and complicated booking difficulties.  

amNewYork Metro has obtained a copy of a formal letter sent to the Mayor from Brooklyn Borough President Adams and Councilmember Justin Brannan. Through this document the elected officials are calling for de Blasio to stop trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to booking vaccinations appointments, and–instead–utilize the existing reservation systems already put in place by well-known companies such as Ticketmaster. 

There are approximately 9 million people in New York, and the city has a goal to vaccinate at least 1 million by the end of January. When this lofty goal is coupled with the limited vaccine dose supplies and a faulty appointment system, Adams and Brannan worry the feat may not be met. 

“At this critical point in the history of our city, it is imperative that the vaccine distribution and appointment system is running efficiently; that those who need the vaccine receive it; and that New Yorkers with disabilities have the same opportunities to be vaccinated as anyone else,” Adams and Brannan write in the letter to the mayor. 

The pair believe that a target of reaching 40,000 vaccinations daily through state and city-run inoculation hubs would be more feasible if the appointment system were not faulty. There have been numerous complaints from individuals—many of whom elderly—waiting hours online while trying to book an appointment for a site located miles away. The platform has also been reported to be slow, prone to crashes, and, for some, confusing to navigate. 

Adams and Brannan added in their statement that seniors in particular are having a difficult time with the webpage. With vaccine eligibility opening to those over 65, they are stressing that it’s important that everyone have a fair and equal opportunity to access vaccines, beginning with booking an appointment. 

Council Member Justin Brannan at a rally on Jan. 9th. Photo by Dean Moses

“The initial phase of our vaccine rollout has been plagued by unacceptable delays and confusion surrounding the appointment process. Inefficiency will only lead to greater inequities, particularly among the Black and Brown communities hardest-hit by the pandemic. If we are going to achieve herd immunity and finally defeat this virus, we need a more efficient system for providing real-time information on the availability of vaccines and booking appointments. That’s why we’re calling on the City to enlist the support of companies that specialize in ticket sales, a sector that has been decimated by this pandemic, to provide technical and logistical support in the creation of a better platform that is accessible to all New Yorkers,” Adams told amNewYork Metro in response to the letter. 

He believes the best way to proceed is with well-known ticketing companies who have programming, staff, and the knowledge to spearhead such an extensive endeavor. 

“The private sector has been a critical partner in fighting this pandemic, re-orienting their business around manufacturing PPE, hand sanitizer, and other essentials that keep New Yorkers safe. We hope they will once again answer the call of duty to ensure a smoother, more equitable vaccine distribution process than what we’ve seen to date,” Adams added.

In the letter, Adams and Brannon state that they are calling on the world’s largest ticket distribution companies to help New York City in its time of need by sharing their consulting expertise and logistical support. Organizations such as Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, and AXS books have the capability of selling hundreds of thousands of tickets within a few hours. 

“New York City is now badly in need of that know-how. The City urgently needs to integrate additional functions into its Vaccine Finder platform to make the process of receiving a vaccine faster and easier. Ticketmaster, AXS, and SeatGeek’s expertise in online booking is a lesson in how to effectively organize appointments at scale,” the letter states. 

By calling for the Mayor to work with these companies in order to integrate a better user-friendly interface into the Vaccine Finder platform, including a function that would permit those eligible to discern the closest next available appointment to their location, along with a method of notifying when an appointment at a nearby site becomes accessible.     

“There’s no reason New York City should have to invent a ticketing or reservation system that’s already operational. This is a perfect opportunity for these companies to get their employees back to work and to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. The sooner we get everybody vaccinated, the sooner Ticketmaster and other companies will be able to get back to selling tickets for concerts and sporting events,” Brannan told amNewYork Metro after we reached out for comment.