Polk Co. to use new phone system to register seniors for upcoming vaccination events

Coronavirus

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Senior citizens over the age of 65 and those with qualifying medical conditions can register for the Florida Department of Health in Polk County’s second public vaccination event on Friday morning, health officials announced Thursday.

“We look forward to opening our COVID-19 vaccine hotline to the residents of Polk County,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County. “Our hope is for residents 65 years of age and older to have an opportunity to provide us with their information so that we can get them scheduled for a vaccination appointment as they become available.”

Those who want to register should call (863) 298-7500 starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

People over the age of 65 years old can sign up for vaccination events next week or be added to a wait list.

The new phone line will be open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for people to register for the vaccine and ask questions.

Haines City resident Jim Haislip hasn’t seen some of his grandchildren since July 2020, his youngest grandchild since early 2020.

“I’m doing great! Ready to go see my grandsons,” Haislip said. “I don’t want them to get sick and my wife’s been afraid of us getting sick.”

Haislip stayed on the phone for two hours on Monday to get a slot for him and his wife, Linda, at Wednesday’s vaccine event in Polk County, which vaccinated 250 people.

It was the first public vaccination event in Polk County.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County began administering the Moderna vaccine to residents of senior living communities with existing infrastructure in place, according to the department’s director Dr. Joy Jackson.

The department did not initially make that publicly known which left many people feeling like there was no plan to distribute the vaccine in Polk County.

Polk County commissioners voiced their frustrations this week about a lack of a publicized plan to administer vaccines to the public.

“The general public needs to know that, yes, we have a plan and we will implement the plan as the vaccine is made available. But silence, not conveying the plan, is not an acceptable course of action,” said George Lindsey, a commissioner.

8 On Your Side asked the spokesperson for the Dept. of Health in Polk County whether more information should have been communicated earlier in the county.

“We’re working daily to provide updates on our website. We’re working with our community partners to enhance that communication and get our information out widespread,” said Nicole Riley, the spokesperson. “We do understand that these are scary and stressful times and we’re working hard and working diligently to get that vaccine out to our residents.”

As of Thursday, the Dept. of Health in Polk County administered more than 5,400 COVID-19 vaccinations across the county.

Hospital staff, nursing home staff and residents and first responders are among the other groups who have received the vaccine in the county.

More information regarding vaccine distribution in Polk County can be found on their website.

Polk County Commissioner Bill Braswell will be hosting a Facebook live event on Friday to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

It will be held at 2 p.m. and will include Kevin Folta, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at the University of Flordia and Asha Brunings, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at Santa Fe college.

To watch the event you can visit the Polk County Government’s Facebook page.

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