6 Bay Area openings vs. 500 in LA: Here's why there's a discrepancy in COVID-19 vaccine availability

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you're having trouble booking a coronavirus vaccine appointment on the MyTurn website, it could be because at one point the Bay Area only had six appointments available, according to a bot. Meanwhile, Los Angeles had 500 open slots.

"Please try later!" or "Sorry we couldn't find any open appointments," are some of the messages Bay Area residents are getting when trying to schedule an appointment on the My Turn website.

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"Most people were sitting there with their webpage, constantly hitting refresh, hoping that something pops up and if they were fast to book," said San Francisco security engineer, Omar Darwish.

Darwish created a program that scrapes the state's My Turn website to identify open appointments. Here's what he found: "It seems like they have mega vaccination centers and that's where most of the bookable appointments are going. It seems like Los Angeles has the most number of appointments followed by the Bay Area and then San Diego. Those are the three regions the bot tracks," said Darwish.

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The bot gathers public data from the site, which tends to be the federal state and local sites, and tweets it out. That's when Darwish started noticing a change last week that benefited Los Angeles dramatically.

Luz Pena: "So you are saying right now it seems like the bot is identifying at least 500 appointments that are open in LA? How many in the Bay Area?

Omar Darwish: "Well as of today, the last notification was for 6 slots for this morning."

Luz Pena: "That's insane."

Omar Darwish: "It seems like Los Angeles figured out how to do their distribution, maybe."

Marin County is feeling the impact.

"We are in a tricky situation now because the criteria has opened up. The governor has announced that everyone with a medical condition ages 16-64, plus a variety of new occupations have come online. At the same time we've had 2,000 fewer doses allocated to us," said Matt Willis, Marin County's Health Officer.

Marin County says they've lost about 20% of their allocation.

"We just don't have enough slots," said Willis.

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Tuesday at a press conference, Governor Gavin Newsom admitted the Bay Area is not receiving the same amount of doses.

"Yes, the baseline. The Bay Area has a baseline of the vaccines. There is an equity overlay. That equity overlay unquestionably has benefitted certain parts of the state," said Gov. Newsom.

The state is following what they promised. Forty percent of its vaccine supply would be allocated for zip codes deemed most vulnerable, and the majority of cases are in Southern California.

"We don't believe that the key is going to be a supply problem. The key for us is going to be a distribution network," said Rob Lapsley, president of the CA Business Roundtable.

But Marin County's health officer says this is creating frustration and hopes the state changes their distribution strategy soon.

"The fact is that L.A. County and other places have been hardest hit and it makes sense to allow for a week or two for them to maybe catch up, but we hope this would right itself quickly. The fact is that we need doses for our most vulnerable members and we are completely relying on the state," said Willis.

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