‘Like I won the Powerball’: Hillsborough senior gets vaccine after signup frustrations


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The second week of administering the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to 9,000 seniors in Hillsborough County is underway.

Mark Dufresne from Brandon said he made 127 unsuccessful calls a week ago trying to register for a coronavirus vaccine appointment.

“I had two computers going and two phones going trying to get through,” he told 8 On Your Side. “It was incredibly frustrating last week.”

Like many seniors who had trouble trying to register with the county’s new system, he contacted 8 On Your Side.

“You can imagine my neighbors heard me outside just going I can’t believe this,” Dufresne said.

As Tampa Bay seniors anxiously wait for protection against the virus, the Florida Department of Health recorded nearly 14,000 new cases and 430 new hospitalizations on Wednesday.

“What I see on the front lines is we’re in the most serious situation we’ve been in since July,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency medicine physician at Tampa General Hospital.

During a conversation with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Facebook, Dr. Wilson explained how TGH is trying to keep the case-fatality rates low.

“The way we can do the best innovative medical treatment and research for covid is by having the time and space to see every covid patient and design a care plan for that that patient,” he said.

Dr. Wilson said TGH has developed out-patient treatment options that include technology to monitor a covid patient’s oxygen levels at home.

“92 percent is kind of the number we use,” he said. “They get lower than that we have them come back in and sometimes they do require hospitalization.”

Both the ER doctor and Mayor Castor are urging people to keep up the mask wearing and social distancing throughout the vaccine rollout.

“You know crashing the site to sign up is an indication people want it,” Mayor Castor said, adding she encourages seniors to keep trying to register in the coming weeks.

Dufresne said he gave it one more shot online after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“It immediately accepted it and just kept staring saying this can’t be true,” he said.

So on Tuesday afternoon in Plant City, he got his first shot in the arm.

“It felt like I won the lottery,” Dufresne said. “It was almost like I won the Powerball I mean I was so excited.”

Hillsborough County officials stress if you did get one of the 9,000 appointments this week, do not show up before your scheduled window. Early arrivals have been causing delays and traffic congestion.


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