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COVID vaccine registrations fill up within minutes in Pinellas, Pasco Counties

Network outages to blame
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 19:59:28-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — COVID-19 vaccine registration sign-ups continue to frustrate those age 65 and older in Tampa Bay.

In Pinellas County, system outages kept thousands of people from being able to register for an appointment on Saturday. In Pasco County, half of the 2,100 appointments filled up within one minute, and all of the appointments filled up within eight minutes.

Hugh Harvey III continues to face issues with the COVID-19 vaccine sign-up.

“I got network busy. Then, I got a message that said ‘oops, something went wrong,’” he explained. “Each time, it said ‘check back again later,’ and that’s what got my blood boiling. It was like this is ridiculous.”

Like Harvey, many people logged into the registration portal in Pinellas County on Saturday morning and found it impossible to make appointments.

CDR Maguire, the company that Pinellas County hired to handle vaccine registrations, blames a “national server issue” for not allowing registrations to open at 10 a.m. as planned. The registrations remained closed until 1:45 p.m., nearly four hours later.

Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers heard from several of her constituents having trouble signing up.

“The concern still remains around the number of people trying to get on at one given time,” she elaborated.

Just 45 minutes after registrations reopened in Pinellas County, all 8,000 available doses were snatched.

“Even though it’s a call center, it is still dependent on communication channels and signals, and there was an outage,” Flowers added.

COVID-19 Vaccine: Where people 65 and older can get vaccinated in the Tampa Bay area

The company, which is also handling Pasco and Hillsborough County COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups, tells local leaders that delays are inevitable, but they’re working to fix server issues in time for the next allotment of vaccines to arrive from the state.

Flowers says that’s the other challenge: The demand for the allotment of vaccines does not meet the supply received locally from state leaders.

“Be patient with us. We are really trying to get this out, and we can only give them a number of doses that we receive,” she explained.

Harvey III says he’s trying to be patient but feels there are better ways to handle the large demand for vaccines, like allowing those 65 and older to pre-register for a spot once more doses are made available. Pinellas County leaders previously said it might not be an option because they aren’t sure how many vaccines they will receive from the state, and therefore, how many people to allow to register.

“We’re all supposed to be patient. But come on. I’ve been sheltering since March 13. My patience is growing short, and it is especially short with incompetence,” Harvey elaborated.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County plans to notify the public once vaccine registrations reopen.