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Hillsborough County closes COVID-19 vaccine appointments as frustration builds

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 07:49:35-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine in Hillsborough County are currently closed until new supply arrives following the second day of frustration from people desperately trying to sign up.

ABC Action News heard again from dozens of people who had trouble getting through over the phone, heard busy signals and hang-ups throughout the day.

“I have called probably about 450 times since 8:00 a.m.,” said Cory Morrocco.

For two days, Morrocco had been trying to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Hillsborough County for her family. She says she hadn’t been able to get a real person on the phone after hours of attempts.

“You know when you have a contest on the radio and everyone is dialing in? So this is literally like trying to win a prize on the radio right now,” said Morrocco. “It’s gotten to a point where you wonder, is it ever going to work?”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Hillsborough County announced appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine were no longer available at this time for people 65 and up. People had been using the phone only to register when the online system was temporarily discontinued.

80-year-old Ann May and her 76-year-old husband Allen say they couldn’t get through after trying since Monday to get an appointment. They say they’ll feel a sense of relief when they do get the vaccine.

“We’ve been at home for almost a year now. We miss our grandkids. We miss our kids. We’re afraid to go anywhere,” said Ann.

Appointments in Hillsborough County are mandatory. The county says appointment availability is based on vaccine supply as provided by the state and it expects to be able to offer more appointments next week.

People who’ve tried to schedule an appointment remain frustrated with the system in place to get a vaccine.

“It is the hunger games,” said Morrocco. “You have all these elderly people, and you say, 'Here’s a website. Here’s a phone number. Good luck. May you ever be lucky, have at it.”

Hillsborough County says it has about 9,000 vaccine doses that will be distributed to people 65 and up between Wednesday and Saturday this week.

The county says it expects shipments of vaccine doses weekly and says people will be notified about how to make appointments as soon as the next batch of vaccines are available.

The county reminds people that there will be no vaccines without appointments and there is no waiting list. The four vaccine distribution sites are:

  • North University Mall (parking lot) 2200 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33612
  • South Vance Vogel Sports Complex 13012 Bullfrog Creek Road, Gibsonton, FL 33534
  • East Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds 2700 W. Risk St., Plant City, FL 33563
  • West Ed Radice Sports Complex 14720 Ed Radice Drive, Tampa, FL 33626

Details about access to the vaccine distribution sites will be given to residents upon appointment confirmation.