Scheduling Apps Have Been Around a Long Time, So Why’s It So Hard To Book a COVID Vaccine Appointment?

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Scheduling Apps Have Been Around a Long Time, So Why’s It So Hard To Book a COVID Vaccine Appointment?
Photo by Ben Bergman/ dot.LA

Los Angeles residents scrambling to book vaccination appointments by refreshing their web browsers and flooding hotline numbers are out of luck. By Monday, most appointments on city and county-run websites were taken for the week.

It took just 10 minutes for thousands of reservations to get snapped up on L.A. city's appointment site run by Carbon Health last week.

"The experience has been a little bit like trying to get Rolling Stones tickets," said Sujal Mandavia, the chief medical officer of the San Francisco-based company.

As the city and county update their respective sites with new appointment slots, many eligible for the vaccine are hitting roadblocks — some users seeing appointment times that, in reality, have already been booked. The county is receiving about 160,000 doses each week. According to the state's epidemiologist, vaccinating the region's estimated 1.3 million people over 65 will take until June.

The rush to schedule vaccinations for health care workers, residents of nursing homes and, now, people 65 and older will serve as a logistical trial for a larger roll out expected over the coming months. It's become a test of tech providers' ability to build platforms that match the steady wave of traffic.

"It's just been very difficult because of the overwhelming demand," Mandavia said.

On Monday, Carbon Health's website announced that it was not taking new appointments at all. And L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there were no available appointments at county-supported sites through the end of this week. She hopes new slots will be added for Saturday and Sunday.

Patchwork Approach

Without a national strategy for testing or vaccination rollout, cities and municipalities are relying on healthcare and tech companies to digitize tasks from booking appointments to storing medical information.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new statewide appointment management site called My Turn.

The platform — built by Salesforce, Accenture and Skedulo — is piloting in Los Angeles and San Diego. It's designed to inform California residents whether they are eligible and, if so, to send them notifications about available slots.

A venture-backed startup founded in 2013, Skedulo has been scheduling appointments for the American Red Cross and supporting coronavirus testing efforts with New Jersey-based BioReference Labs. The majority of its revenue comes from healthcare clients, marketing executive vice president Miles Kelly said, making the company "relatively prepared for the critical mass rollout on the vaccination side."

Navigating the Tech

Kelly said the company has strived to "make something that is super-sophisticated come across as relatively straightforward or simple."

"One of the biggest issues we're experiencing now is that the people that we are striving to get vaccinated are not necessarily those who would be digitally native," said Shira Shafir, a UCLA associate professor of epidemiology.

But even younger people familiar with the internet are struggling to make appointments online.

On Sunday, Shafir saw an email for open appointments and rushed to My Turn to book a slot for her 80-year-old doctoral advisor "knowing with certainty he would not be able to do so."

The website crashed, then listed times that she wasn't able to reserve.

"You look to platforms booking tickets for very in-demand concerts and there are certainly wait lists and people pushing refresh, refresh, refresh," Shafir said. "This is not a new phenomenon, though it might be new to public health."

The city's appointment site will stay up even as My Turn is rolled out across the county. Carbon Health entered the deal to help L.A. schedule its vaccine appointments after working on the city's testing efforts. In a little over a week, the $175 million venture-backed company built the platform to list every open appointment offered at five city-run vaccination sites.

"We have really bulked up our network server resources so that we're able to handle any variation in volume," Mandavia said.

But things could get even more complicated. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is reportedly inching closer to approval, a development that could pose other challenges, said CORE CEO and co-founder Ann Lee. The nonprofit group operates vaccination pop-ups in L.A. including the Dodger Stadium location.

"It's just a one-dose vaccination which makes life easier, but how do you deal with two different types of vaccines on the same site?" she said.

Lee is reminding residents that most appointment-booking issues have to do with supply and demand. There just aren't enough vaccines available for everyone eligible to get one.

"The thing I have been telling the people I care about is the minute they get the notification that appointments are available, they do need to drop everything," Shafir said. "There are very few things on anybody's calendar that would be more important than getting to a vaccination site."
🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.

Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor

Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo

Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect

MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health

Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP

Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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