Hillsborough County rolls out new registration system to resume giving seniors COVID-19 vaccine this week

Coronavirus

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County is set to resume vaccinating seniors ages 65 and older on Wednesday.

The health department has received another vaccine shipment containing 9,000 doses after administering the first round of COVID-19 vaccines to seniors last week.

Registration for vaccine appointments opens Tuesday with staggered times, after a rough start last week due to the website crashing and phone lines going down. 

The county later suspended its online registration site and told residents to make appointments by phone. It quickly ran out of slots for vaccine appointments.

“I was online all day Monday, oh my gosh it was hours, maybe five or six hours,” said Angelia Valdez who tried to get an appointment for two days before learning all of the slots were full.

“If the purpose was warp speed to get the vaccine, where is the warp speed giving the vaccine? Somebody is dropping the ball somewhere,” said Valdez, who contacted 8 On Your Side with her frustrations. She plans to try again Tuesday but worries it will crash again.

To avoid the same issues, Hillsborough County is changing how and when seniors can sign up.

To get vaccinated, residents ages 65 and older will have to make an appointment by calling (850) 848-5287 or visiting patientportalfl.com. The registration period begins Tuesday, Jan. 12 and will end once slots run out.

Seniors can only make an appointment during the designated time frame specific to their age group:

  • Residents age 85 and older can book an appointment between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Residents age 75 to 84 can book an appointment between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Residents age 65 to 74 can book an appointment between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • After 5 p.m., any resident age 65 and older can book any remaining slots while appointments remain available.

“If you don’t meet that criteria there’s some mitigation within that, to kind of help folks from overwhelming the system,” said Timothy Dudley, with Hillsborough County Emergency Management.

Dudley said the company is more prepared this time to handle an influx of people trying to sign up.

“The phone center, the vendor, has a robust call center that we have confidence that they should be able to accommodate those calls, as well as the online system, should be able to accommodate the designated periods for making those appointments,” Dudley said. But they county is also asking people to be patient.

To make the process run smoother, officials are also urging seniors to go on the online portal site immediately and create an online account, so they are ready when their time slot opens.

The county officially started vaccinating seniors Wednesday, Jan. 6. Four vaccine distribution sites were set up: the University Mall parking lot on East Fowler Avenue in Tampa, the Vance Vogel Sports Complex on Bullfrog Creek Road in Gibsonton, the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds on West Risk Street in Plant City and the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Ed Radice Drive in Tampa.

Only people with appointments will be vaccinated at the sites.

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