Gone in less than an hour! 10,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments filled up in a single hour Friday in Pinellas County.
It comes as the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County teams up with Pinellas County leaders to open four new vaccine distribution sites next week for people age 65 and older to get the vaccine.
However, those unable to sign up Friday, are yet again, stuck waiting to find out when the state will send another shipment of vaccine doses to Tampa Bay.
St. Petersburg resident Hugh Harvey III is on a self-imposed lockdown. In November, he says 6 of his family members tested positive for COVID-19. Although they live in a different state, Harvey said it was eye-opening. “It was a wake up call for me. I won’t gather with anybody I don’t live with,” he elaborated.
He’s anxious to get the vaccine so he can venture out of the house.
“I knew I needed to get this done because I’m tired of sitting at home,” he added.
Yet, like thousands in Tampa Bay, he hasn’t had any success signing up for an appointment.
Those who were lucky enough to get an appointment Friday tell ABC Action News the registration process was much easier.
Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties all hired an outside company, CDR Maguire, to set up a new registration website and a phone hotline where you can leave your number for a call back instead of waiting on hold for hours.
The registration process takes about 10-20 minutes and if you’re able to get an appointment, you’ll get a QR code to take to the testing site with you for administrators to scan.
“The company has added capacity, 5 times the capacity since there were problems with the experience in Hillsborough County, so they’ve really ramped up,” Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton added.
Starting Tuesday, Pinellas County will open three new vaccine distribution locations in North, South, and Mid-County. By Wednesday, 4 locations will be up and running. Pinellas County says the locations will be in St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park, and Palm Harbor but they say they are not disclosing where the locations are, unless you get an appointment.
“The only thing we don’t want and that we ask is that people don’t rush to the sites. These are going to be by appointment only,” Dr. Ulyee Choe from the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County elaborated.
Pinellas County leaders are waiting to find out when they’ll get the next batch of doses from the state. Harvey wishes he could get a better idea of when he’ll finally get his chance. “It sounds like roulette to me. And that’s another one of my frustrations,” he said with a sigh.
People age 65 and above who were unable to book an appointment Friday, can sign up for alerts when the next State shipment arrives. You can sign up for those alerts online at www.patientportalfl.com.
Those without internet access or who need assistance with the portal can call (844) 770-8548 The call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide guidance in English and Spanish.
Appointments for the required second dose will also be made at the time of scheduling.
Family members must sign up and register individually for appointments, according to Pinellas County leaders.