TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County seniors waited months for Monday – the day they were finally supposed to get a chance to sign up for the potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine. Instead, many found themselves at the mercy of a glitch-filled system.
The Tampa Bay area’s most populous county opened its reservation process Monday for seniors to make an appointment for a vaccine. Hillsborough County’s website and call line launched at 9 a.m. Minutes later, 8 On Your Side started getting screenshots of website error messages from viewers.
Many seniors who were documenting their troubles say Hillsborough’s phone line was down too.
Valrico resident Clara Thomas was desperate to track down an appointment.
“I’ve dialed in almost 15 times at this point, kept getting a busy signal,” Thomas said Monday. “At one point, on my online, it actually kicked me out of the system.”
Thomas believes getting vaccinated is a matter of life and death. In August, she was hospitalized with pneumonia.
Throughout this pandemic, she and her husband have followed all Centers for Disease Control guidelines and waited patiently for their turn to get vaccinated.
Like many other viewers who reached out to 8 On Your Side, she wants to know who dropped the ball.
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“I feel that it was not planned well, if it is something with the infrastructure that needs to be fixed,” said Thomas.
Hillsborough County officials say they’re in charge of the website.
In a tweet, the county health department said its registration system and phone center were experiencing service interruptions and that delays were to be expected. The county later said its online scheduling service was not available and encouraged seniors to make appointments by phone.
By Monday night, the county announced it was temporarily discontinuing its online appointment system and moving all vaccine registrations to its phone system and expanding call hours.
Right now, Hillsborough has 1,500 doses of the vaccine. By the end of the week, they hope to have 9,000. The plan is to put shots into arms starting Wednesday.
As of Monday evening, Thomas still wasn’t able to get an appointment.
“I’ve gotten more support from WFLA than anywhere else,” she said.
People can try to make a reservation by calling 888-755-2822.