HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Charles Thrower remembers rushing to get the polio vaccine for him and his family as soon as he could. Now at 90 years old, his focus is on the COVID-19 vaccine for himself and his partner.
But like others, he couldn’t get through by phone or online in Hillsborough County during its first round of appointment registrations.
“I worked on it most of the day only to get a busy signal,” he said.
He said it’s important because of their risk factors.
“To keep from dying. At our age and the problems that I have with congestive heart failure and her having high blood pressure, we’re candidates for dying very quickly from it. We just don’t have the good health to maintain or fight through it,” he said.
Thrower explained he’d like to see those on the older end of the 65 years and older vaccination group prioritized by the Governor be prioritized even further.
“I think it would have worked much better had he had the foresight to include people even 80 years old and over. Because those people are the ones that are fragile. Those are the ones that really need it and he’s overlooked that,” Thrower said.
Tuesday, Hillsborough County will open another round of appointment sign-ups with a new vendor, broken into time frames by age:
- 85 and older can book an appointment 8-10 a.m. (There are 2,000 available)
- 75 to 84 can book an appointment 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. (There are 3,000 available)
- 65 to 74 can book an appointment 2-4p.m. (There are 4,000 available)
- After 5, any resident 65+ can book any remaining slots
You can reach this online or by phone at (850) 848-5287. You can go ahead and create an account right now, though.
“We just want to mitigate some of the impacts. There’s a huge demand for this vaccine here in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay area as we saw across the board in a few communities here,” said Tim Dudley, the Hillsborough County emergency management director. “So we’ve worked closely with the vendor and we want to try to put some measures in place to make sure that the system holds up and we have a better experience for folks here.”
RELATED: COVID-19 Vaccine: Where people 65 and older can get vaccinated in the Tampa Bay area
Meanwhile, in Pasco County, the health department says they are “…currently in the process of securing an improved registration system through CDR Maguire,” noting their experience with COVID-19 testing and work with Orange County for vaccinations. It’s the same company Hillsborough County will now be using.
Officials in Pasco County said they’re expecting 1,000 more doses of the vaccine this week, but haven’t received it yet.
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County said it “…is putting the final touches on the new, more robust registration platform.”
In Sarasota County, the department of health says they just received 1,000 doses and are planning a clinic. They’re also rescheduling second dose appointments. They are planning on drive-thrus for second shots rather than the clinic at a downtown location.
In Polk County, the department of health says there are no more appointments available for this week. Those 65 and older can call their hotline to be placed on a registration list, to be contacted in the future when the vaccine becomes available. The hotline is 863-298-7500.
The state said Manatee County will receive around 1,000 doses this week.
In Highlands County, the department of health said all appointments have been made for the week. You can still go ahead and register for a waiting list by calling 863-402-6780 or visiting online.
In Hernando County, the health department said they’re at capacity for appointments for the amount of vaccine they have received. But they are warning of scams promising access. They’re reminding people the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County won’t ask for social security numbers, credit card information or bank information. over the phone or online, and that the vaccine is free.
In Citrus County the department of health said there are no future clinics scheduled right now. They are waiting for more vaccines.
The governor’s office stated in part, “Since day one of the public health emergency, Governor DeSantis has been singularly focused on protecting those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, which includes Florida’s more than 4.5 million senior citizens. The Governor understands that vaccinating Floridians 65 and older is not only the right thing to do, but also the most effective tool we have to battle the pandemic and help reduce the mortality rate.”
The news of the new process in Hillsborough County was welcome new to Thrower, who said they’ve been staying home and wearing masks.
“That’s really encouraging,” he said.
But beyond a shot, he also encouraged others to pay attention and listen to authorities.
“It doesn’t take a graduate from Harvard to figure that out. That these people that don’t seem to care are the ones that’s really responsible for spreading the virus more than anyone else,” he said.