PINELLAS COUNTY, Fl.-- — Another day of COVID19 vaccine sign ups, meant another day of frustrations for some trying to secure a dose in Pinellas County.
Friday, the Department of Health in Pinellas County opened registration for about 10,000 appointments, filling up in less than 50 minutes.
“Whoever we contracted with is doing a very poor job and I don’t care if the number of vaccines are fairly limited that doesn’t mean that the way we curtail that is to have a sloppy website,” said Dr. Stephen Liggett, a resident and vice dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at USF.
He said though he had an opportunity to get the vaccine as a physician, given his level of patient contact he decided to go through the county’s site like many others.
“I felt the ethical thing to do since I don’t have a lot of patient contact right now is to make sure that our first responders, nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, get an opportunity to be vaccinated first. So I said why don’t I do it like everybody else does? And look what happens. Everybody else is having a really hard time. And I think they should be fired,” he said.
He said he received odd message after odd message on the site.
“It’s demoralizing at a time where we need more humanistic approaches to taking care of the pandemic” he said.
CDR Health said the call center had 10,000 callers at the onset of appointment slots made available, and 54,000 people visiting the site within the first minute of the portal opening. Because of the demand, it limited the number of people allowed on the site at any given time.
Others also shared their experiences with ABC Action News.
“I’m 84. And naturally I have a few health issues so I wear the mask, I do everything, I’m staying in and it would be nice to know I was being protected with the shot. Hopefully someone might listen to us and get it for the older senior,” said Maryann O’Neill.
It was also her second time trying to sign up, but she found herself kicked out of the site, despite trying multiple times.
Kim Painter, who said she was trying to sign up her dad, also got booted off the system. She says she hasn’t seen him in more than a year, but a vaccine would be key to that process.
“I know the appointments there aren’t enough appointments for everyone but to have invested a whole hour all the highs and lows and that process still end up without one it would be nice to know am I the 15,000th person in line or am I the 8th person in line?” she said.
CDR Health said purchased five times the capacity that was predicted would be needed for increasing demand, but added it’s “working with Salesforce to do more than increase server capacity and work to solve this issue entirely.”
“Unfortunately, we have far more people who want the vaccine than we have spots available for vaccination,” said CDR Health CEO Tina Vidal-Duart in a media statement. “We are, all of us, frustrated with pitting people against each other like this. We are working around the clock to ensure we can help vaccinate as many people as possible. As soon as more doses become available, we will begin scheduling again.”
The same afternoon, the state launched a preregistration system for vaccine appointments. It’s available to all Floridians regardless of county. A spokesperson aid if a county decides to use the system, the state will work with them to merge existing waitlists.
“The state has been working closely with counties to ensure existing registration systems can coordinate with the statewide system,” a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management stated.
The DOH in Pinellas County said it will continue using its patient portal.
Polk, Pasco, Sarasota and Manatee Counties have opted to continue using their current enrollment processes, some noting signing up through the state would not secure an appointment with the county.
Meanwhile, the DOH in Hillsborough County said its registrations would be transferred over, though it was still recommended people sign up on the state site.
The DOH in Citrus, Highlands and Hardee Counties indicated they would utilize the state system.
In Highlands County, they will close its online portal starting Monday at noon, and then refer people to the statewide system. They’ll continue scheduling first dose vaccine appointments from the waiting list, until the list is exhausted.
The system will not impact Citrus County’s drive through clinic Saturday, which is a first come first serve basis.
Each county also has a number for people to register by phone through the state pre-registration system that can be found here.