Florida’s vaccine rollout criticized, experts call for more communication and local support

8 On Your Side

(WFLA photo)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After a frustrating and rocky rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in Florida, many seniors in the state say they still don’t know when or how to get the shot. But does it have to be this way? 8 On Your Side is digging into what can be learned from other states.

At times, Florida’s vaccine rollout has been a free-for-all. In Lee County, it was first come, first serve. Images of seniors camped out in line went viral.

Closer to home, 8 On Your Side has documented the confusion as many Tampa Bay area seniors try to figure out when and how to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Ken Miller, 83, is competing with thousands for a limited number of doses in Hillsborough.

“I’ve got two problems – my age and my disease. And if I happen to get COVID, I’m probably not going to live, ” said Mr. Miller.

USF Public Health Professor Jay Wolfson says Florida’s critics have a point. 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked if there should be more support from the state.

“There has to be more support in terms of money, in terms of guidance, in terms of infrastructure,” said Dr. Wolfson.

Critics have pointed out there’s a lack of state support for counties, no clear consistent message to the public and no website that shows what’s happening across the state.

“The rules should be very clear, access to that should be easy (and) support for following up should be easy,” said Dr. Wolfson.

In Virginia, the Department of Health website explains the state’s three phases. Within seconds, residents know where they stand.

For example, Alexandria County is in Phase 1b. That means police, teachers and seniors 75 and older can sign up for the shot.

8 On Your Side reached out the Florida Department of Health to see if they’re considering a centralized, state-managed approach.

In the meantime, Miller hopes he’ll have a better shot at getting the shot on Tuesday.

“I set up my account this morning right before I spoke to you and it was not an easy process,” said Miller.

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