Hillsborough seniors struggle to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – All 9,000 coronavirus vaccine appointments for seniors 65 and older during the second week of distribution in the county have been filled on Tuesday.

Dozens of 8 On Your Side viewers reached out after running into more troubles with the registration process, despite the county launching a new website from a different vendor.

“Since the pandemic, we have pretty much been in our house since March, said 68-year-old Michael Crisp.

When Crisp learned about Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to prioritize vaccinating Florida seniors, he said he was “very excited about it because initially, I figured I would have to wait.”

But Crisp told 8 On Your Side he had no luck registering for the first shot in three Tampa Bay counties: Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas.

“I’m very disappointment because i’m anxious and want to get it,” he said, adding he is eager to visit his parents and son who live out of state.

With no available appointments where he lives in Pinellas County this week, Crisp tried on Tuesday to schedule a time for him and his wife in Hillsborough County.

He said he created an account and waited for his age group’s turn to sign up.

“Once I clicked the location, I got the wheel it wouldn’t let me go farther,” Crisp said.

8 On Your Side took the concerns from Crisp and many other 8 On Your Side viewers about vaccine registration troubles to Iñaki Rezola, Section Chief at Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Office of Emergency Management

“Did (Tuesday) go any better with getting our seniors registered to be vaccinated?” 8 On Your Side asked Rezola.

“It did,” he said. “It didn’t go to our level of expectation. There were clearly challenges and issues that we are working to correct.”

To help seniors who can’t get online or have trouble using computers, Rezola said they allowed this week for more of the 9,000 appointments to be made by phone.

8 On Your Side asked about setting up a wait list or lottery system like the one in Manatee County.

“We’ll still explore that and not discount that opportunity,” Rezola said.

Rezola added that receiving direction from the state in late December to put seniors next in line delayed putting together distribution plans.

“It’s week-to-week,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many doses we’ll have for next week.”

Crisp said he just wants some assurance sooner than later that he’ll be able to a shot.

“You would have thought they had so many months to go through these scenarios and conditions so when they got the vaccine they’d be able to handle this,” he said.

In response to complaints about seniors flocking to the Sunshine State for the vaccine, Gov. DeSantis said “we are not doing any tourists.”

Rezola said there were registrations during the first week of vaccinations in Hillsborough County from “New York, Washington and Atlanta.”

8 On Your Side pressed him to find out how many of the 9,000 shots last week were administered to out of state residents, but Rezola said they are still working with the former website vendor to figure that out.


Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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