VERNAL, Utah (ABC4) – A contractor employee was accused of responding to automated text messages containing “inappropriate, offensive, and vulgar language” to 52 Utahners.
The TriCounty Health Department (TCHD) went to Facebook to explain the incident, saying it and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) hired a private SMS service, Public Results, to send information via SMS about where and how people get a Covid19 vaccination.
Pre-made text messages and replies were developed prior to the start of the service and began shipping on Friday.
TCHD says a Public Results employee “made a personal choice to reply to text messages using inappropriate, abusive, and vulgar language”. A total of 52 people received these answers.
“When UDOH and TCHD found out what had happened, the SMS campaign was immediately canceled,” says TCHD. “The company that sent the responses apologized and was fired. We reviewed this company prior to hiring and reached out to other agencies who have successfully used their services in both Utah and across the country. The inappropriate language and responses were not approved by either the TCHD or the UDOH and we sincerely apologize to everyone who received the messages. As important as vaccines are to the health of our community, we will find other ways to continue educating the public about the importance of the vaccine. “
Those who received the inappropriate texts then received a follow-up message from Public Results that read:
Hi, this is Jessica from Public Results, a private text messaging service. You recently received a mistaken SMS on behalf of the Department of Health from TriCounty that was not approved by the Department. This text was sent by a poor actor and in no way reflects the professionalism and mission of TCHD. I am so sorry for the message you received and the damage it may have caused.