Why are lines so long at Tampa’s University Mall COVID-19 vaccine site?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Thursday and Friday were back-to-back days of a vaccine distribution debacle. Seniors were lined up in cars at Tampa’s University Mall COVID-19 vaccination site as their frustration spiked while waiting in the Florida heat.

8 On Your Side wanted to know, after Thursday’s frustration, how it could happen for the second day in a row on Friday.

The number of people getting vaccinated at University Mall doubled overnight. The site is now administering second shots on top of first doses. Seniors say the state and its vendor are not prepared.

More than 3,500 seniors were vaccinated on Thursday. According to Hillsborough County Health officials, 1,682 seniors received their first dose of the vaccine while 1,854 seniors received their second dose.

Unfortunately, many seniors that have shown up for their second shots have been denied.

This is just the latest hiccup in Florida’s vaccine rollout.

Three weeks ago, on Jan. 21, University Mall went from being a county-run site to a state-run site. When that happened, the rules changed. Now you must have an appointment to get your second shot.

But some seniors tell 8 On Your Side they were never notified.

“What has this process been like for you?” asked Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.

“This time it’s chaotic, the first time was very organized,” 74-year-old Julie Cantu said. “I think a lot of people are showing up with no appointments.”

Florida hired a contractor to handle reservations at state-run sites like University Mall.

8 On Your Side called the Florida Division of Emergency Management asking if they were notifying seniors about changes to the reservation process. We are still waiting to hear back.

We also emailed your complaints about the vendor and vaccine registration process to Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials.

Seniors say they’re not getting support questions answered. There’s no system in place to alter appointments and, at times, appointment confirmation emails never come through.

Health officials say seniors must register online for the second dose before showing up for an appointment. Appointments are confirmed within 48 hours.

Despite this mess, Florida still has one of the highest second dose vaccination rates in the country. We come in at number three with more than 750,000 second-dose vaccinations.

Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is working to respond to your emails regarding vaccine issues.

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