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Frustrations mount in Pinellas County over COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups

Posted at 5:03 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 07:38:57-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The frustrations continue on both sides of the bay as people age 65 and older work to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Vaccinations will start Tuesday in Pinellas County at three Florida Department of Health locations. However, hundreds of people tell ABC Action News they are still unable to sign up for appointments.

“I feel defeated,” Pinellas County resident Bill Hammond said after trying for hours to get an appointment both online and via phone.

“When it’s literally available and you cannot get through, it makes it a million times more frustrating,” added Ryah Nixon, who also spent most of the day Monday trying to sign up her 71-year-old mom for the vaccine.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County launched their registration link at noon, but hundreds of people report not being able to access the sign-up. If they did get through, the site did not allow them to book any appointments.

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

Bob Larrivee, who lives in Palm Harbor, spent a large amount of time trying to register himself and his family members for an appointment.

“I got the endless spinning wheel for a couple minutes, and then the next thing you know, there is an error message that popped up,” he explained.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is also offering a call-in option, but after waiting on hold for hours, many tell ABC Action News they were disconnected.
“Nothing. Nada. Tried to call: can’t get through,” Hammond elaborated.

Hammond has underlying health conditions and has battled diabetes for more than 70 years. He now worries he won’t be able to make an appointment to get the vaccine.

“I have to fight to stay alive every day and to have this so close when I’ve been so careful to keep from getting COVID, and not being able to do it because they’re not rolling it out properly, it’s beyond me. It’s very frustrating,” he said.

“I will be on the phone every single day until I get through and make an appointment for my mom,” Nixon added.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County says they are working with the state’s IT office to fix any issues, adding that anyone who can’t get through will have the weeks and months ahead to sign up.

Vaccinations will begin in Pinellas County Tuesday by appointment only. People age 65 plus can get vaccinated at the Health Departments in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg.

The Florida Departments of Health in Pinellas and Pasco Counties are also warning everyone to be aware of a fake Eventbrite website that has been created and is charging people to register to receive the vaccine appointment. Both health departments are reminding everyone that the vaccine is free, and the only way to register is by calling or booking an appointment online directly through your local health department.