PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – On Wednesday, Hillsborough County started the second round of coronavirus vaccinations for seniors.
“A lot of people have died. I’ve had some friends, close friends that have passed this last year,” said Willie Reese, a senior who was vaccinated Wednesday. “Hopefully getting the shot will help eliminate it.”
Kenny and Marilyn Kirchoff were also at the Plant City vaccination site Wednesday, but only Marilyn was able to get an appointment., not her husband.
“I felt bad for him because I thought we would get to go together,” Marilyn said. “We’ve tried in Manatee county, we tried here, and our daughter she’s trying for us also. Since I got one and he didn’t, we’re still trying to find a spot for him.”
Like Kenny Kirchoff, dozens of seniors experienced issues with error messages and long telephone wait times Tuesday when the new registration process opened in Hillsborough County.
Inaki Rezola, Operations Section Chief with Hillsborough County Emergency management says they’ve filled all 9,000 available appointments for the vaccine, despite ongoing issues with the registration system.
“I would tell the community don’t give up. We continue to work toward finding a process that works. While it wasn’t perfect yesterday, we had challenges, it was much better than last week. We were able to register the 9,000 people in one day,” Rezola said.
Rezola explained that the county hired a new vendor for the sign-up system after the original website crashed last week. Seniors say problems with the new online portal started shortly after it launched Tuesday.
“When you have 1,000 online registrations occurring per minute, you only have like 2,000 to 3,000 appointments for that time block, in three minutes, four minutes, it’s gone,” Rezola said.
8 On Your Side asked Rezola what steps county officials are taking to address the issues.
“We’re working hard. We’re going to make the course corrections and we’re going to continue to try to improve the process every single day,” Rezola said.
Rezola said the county had plans in place for months to vaccinate healthcare workers and in late December they learned the state planned to vaccinate seniors first.
“We didn’t have months to prepare, we had weeks,” he said.
Rezola said they are also receiving a high number of requests from people outside of the county.
“I’m actually awaiting a report from the vendor. It’s going to tell us hopefully where people were calling from or registering from, because that will be really good information to validate whether we’re getting large numbers of people that are just calling from all over to register. We still face the challenge that we have a limited supply, and very high demand.”
When asked when the county expects to receive more doses, Rezola said they learn day by day.
“Our priority is we’re going to keep pushing them out to the community. At some point vaccines are going to be more readily available and they’re going to be opened up to more individuals,” he said.
To get vaccinated, residents must make an appointment. The vaccination sites are:
- Vance Vogel Sports Complex: 13012 Bullfrog Creek Road, Gibsonton
- Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds: 2700 W. Risk Street, Plant City
- Ed Radice Sports Complex: 14720 Ed Radice Drive, Tampa
Seniors with scheduled appointments need to bring the following items to receive the vaccination:
- Photo I.D.
- Proof of appointment (copy of confirmation with QR code)
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