Tampa seniors frustrated and angry over struggle to sign up for COVID vaccine

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – Rae Yingling and her husband are retired military seniors and would like to get the COVID vaccine.

“Right now I feel like I’m living in a box. It’s tough, it’s very depressing. You become very saddened because you miss your family,” said Yingling.

When appointments became available to get the vaccine in Hillsborough County, they took on the mission with military precision.

They had an iPad, desktop computer, two cell phones, and a home phone ready to go the second the appointment window opened.

“It looked like a command center,” said Jerry Yingling.

Despite their organized effort and incredible persistence, the couple was not able to secure an appointment for the vaccine.

Hillsborough County requires an appointment before someone can show up at a vaccine location, the county says they will turn away people who just show up.

The Yingling’s tried more than 1,500 times to call the county telephone number for their appointment. They were able to get through only five times and when they did get through all they heard was an automated message.

“And it said there is nobody to handle your phone call and they hang up,” said Rae Yingling.
Her frustration led to tears, ” By the end of the day yesterday, I really felt defeated by the system,” said Yingling.

Jerry Yingling wants to know why the county only set up a three-day window for people to make vaccine appointments.

“Why can’t they make appointments in advance? A week from now, two weeks from now, even a month from now,” said Yingling.

Timothy Dudley with Hillsborough County says that’s not the way the system is designed right now.

“We’re only going to make appointments available for the amount of vaccine that we have. This is our first rollout of the vaccine and we are going to take a look at the process and make appropriate adjustments,” said Dudley.

Jerry Yingling says the county should allow people to make appointments in advance and if the vaccine is not available the county should cancel the appointment and not torture people over the age of 65 by making them spend hours on the phone or online trying to set something up.

“They know the seniors are a wreck right now. So you put us through this type of torment, over 1,500 phone calls, hanging the phone up on us, making us feel like there is no way we are ever going to get the vaccine,” said Rae Yingling.

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