Vaccination frustration: What we know about the outside vendor Hillsborough County hired for its coronavirus vaccine rollout

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County’s coronavirus registration website was still down and all the vaccine slots were full by Tuesday. 8 On Your Side found out the county paid a company $230,000 to set up the registration process – so did they spend your money wisely?

On day two of the county’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, thousands of seniors still struggled to sign up for the potentially life-saving shot.

“I just find this absolutely astounding that a county this size…that they can’t do a better job than this,” 76-year-old Earla Cochran said.

Hillsborough County Director of Emergency Management Timothy Dudley says he gets why people are frustrated.

“We understand your frustration, this is an important task for us,” Mr. Dudley said.

Hillsborough County officials say they hired a company called OnSite Safe to launch the vaccine rollout. OnSite Safe received close to $230,000 of taxpayer money to run the website and call center.

“We chose this vendor because they told us they could handle a very large diverse project,” said Mr. Dudley. “We’re not pleased with the outcome at this point.”

Initially, on Monday, the county and local Department of Health blamed the glitches on high-demand. There are more than 200,000 seniors in Hillsborough County but, right now, there are only 9,000 available doses of the vaccines.

As of Tuesday night, all of the slots were filled. Vaccinations are set to start on Wednesday morning.

Now, 8 On Your Side is looking into the county’s process for hiring the vendor.

“Do you know if they had successfully handled projects like this before on this scale?” Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked.

“So this is COVID-19, it’s unprecedented,” said Mr. Dudley. “The demand was just overwhelming, as we have seen yesterday throughout the Tampa Bay area.”

8 On Your Side has learned OnSite Safe hired a third-party vendor to run the registration website.

Dudley says the county wasn’t aware that was going to happen.

“We definitely want an overall summary of what happened,” said Mr. Dudley. “Since yesterday, we’ve been troubleshooting and looking at different options to see how we can offer a better experience moving forward.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White says OnSite Safe made promises they didn’t keep.

“What I’ve seen thus far has just been completely disappointing,” said Commissioner White. “I can assure you that I will do my part that this vendor is held accountable.”

Phuong Nguyen is a spokesperson for OnSite Safe.  Nguyen sent 8 On Your Side the following statement:

“Technology issues are plaguing counties statewide during this coronavirus vaccine rollout. We prepared for the massive response but unfortunately our system was also overwhelmed by the demand. We have worked hard to remedy the issues and have filled all of the 9,000 available appointments. We understand the frustration and truly apologize.”

The company has declined to do on-camera interview.

Are you having trouble signing up to get a coronavirus vaccine in the Tampa Bay area?
Fill out our 8 On Your Side form to report the problems you’re having.

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