By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – At 8:00 Thursday morning, the state’s website went online for a million additional people in Massachusetts who just became newly eligible for the highly sought-after COVID-19 vaccine.

“It just died on me,” said 71-year-old Leonard Kurland who lives in Worcester. He says vaccinations are so important to him, that he carries around an old photo with him that shows him clutching his arm after a shot back when he was in boot camp. “That’s 1968,” he said as he pulled it out.

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Now in 2021, when the vaccination website crashed on him, he tried the state’s call center. “They said you’re in the queue, we’re busy, but we’ll call you back, and they haven’t called me back,” he said.

He wasn’t alone. “I waited because I figured well, if you wait it’s less likely to crash, but it already had crashed,” said Laurie Lasky.

“I feel like I’ve done everything I possibly could within the rules, to get a vaccination, and it’s just not possible,” said Jerry Lanson.

The Massachusetts COVID Response Command Center sent a statement. “Due to extremely high traffic and volume, the VaxFinder tool and vaccine location websites are experiencing delays and technical difficulties.”

“Any issues with the website we’re constantly checking it and monitoring it,” said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “We’ll address them.”

WBZ-TV’s Tiffany Chan reports

Many couples tried unsuccessfully to get two appointments back-to-back.

“Very, very frustrated. I get a nervous breakdown,” said Margarita Furtado of Attleboro. The process has proved to be a headache for her and her husband. They’re not tech savvy, their English is limited and securing not one, but two appointments at the same time.

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“It is very, very difficult,” Furtado said. “I want so bad to get the shot and seeing that we cannot have that here in Attleboro, it’s very, very sad for me.”

They’re not alone. Even those who use the computer with ease are having trouble making same-day appointments with their spouse to save themselves the extra trip.

“My wife used an iPhone and a computer and I used the iPhone and we worked at it,” said Peter Young of Dennis. “We got through most of the steps at Gillette… and then we would get an error message at the end.”

Young said he’s willing to drive from his house on the Cape to Springfield for a shot. The problem is finding a time slot for him and his wife.

“We’re hoping that it’s not going to be more than three or four days,” Young said. “We’re hoping that we’re going to crack the ice and get through.”

Governor Charlie Baker expressed frustration during a talk show on WGBH Radio. “I, you know, my hair’s on fire about the whole thing. I can’t even begin to tell you how pissed off I am.”

“It’s a sheer overwhelming degree of traffic that the site just can’t handle,” said cyber expert Peter Tran, with InferSight. He said there are ways to prevent such crashes. “Scale the site to multiple redundancy points. So just back-ups on back-ups, to be able to handle the flow and offload those to backup sites.”

Wednesday, Governor Baker announced people 65 and older would be able to begin scheduling appointments Thursday morning. He also expanded eligibility to people who have at least two medical conditions, and people who live in public and affordable housing for seniors.

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Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you’re eligible and to book an appointment.

Christina Hager