LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s a new plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Pinellas County.
A new registration system is set to roll out, with thousands of vaccines available next week.
How and where can you get on the list to receive a vaccine? 8 On Your Side’s Pinellas County Bureau Reporter Christine McLarty spent Wednesday working to get answers.
There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is as of this publication we don’t have the answers to the where and when questions about the vaccine.
The good news is, there’s a change to the registration system and more vaccines are coming.
“We’ve been a whole year without being able to put our arms around our families. It’s really hard and it’s horrible,” said Dianne Heckler.
She and her husband William Heckler live in Seminole, but their kids and grandkids live in Texas.
The pandemic has kept them apart from their family for a year.
“We are continuing to see an increase and increase in cases,” said Dr. Uylee Choe, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.
Choe said nearly 30,000 people in Pinellas County have received the first dose of the vaccine so far.
He said those vaccinations have been given primarily through hospitals, health centers, and at long-term care facilities, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
The Hecklers tried to get the vaccine, so far with no success.
Choe said between 10,000 and 12,000 vaccines are arriving in Pinellas County next week.
“We have hope, yes, yes!,” said the Hecklers.
The state-run health department announced its partnership with Pinellas County to contract a new company to operate a new online and phone registration system. They said it’s the same system Pasco and Hillsborough counties are using.
Pinellas County Administrator, Barry Burton, said changes are in the works. “We’re working with fire paramedics to put up stand-alone sites and working with the company to stand up both the website and call center. This is the same site for Pasco and Hillsborough county. So we’ll all be using the same thing,” Burton said.
Last week vaccines were given at the Dept. of Health locations, but moving forward they will not be given at those locations.
Burton said there will be at least 2 sites where vaccines will be distributed, but they are not releasing the names of those sites yet.
The county staff said they hope to open sign-ups for vaccines next week by the end of this week.
News Channel 8 called the state department of health to see if they had details about the date of the vaccine rollout, locations, or how to register.
We didn’t get a callback but did receive an email saying they don’t have a date or details yet. As new vaccine supply becomes available, the county will share more information on the Pinellas County website and the FDOH Pinellas County website.
The Hecklers are cautiously optimistic.
“You’re afraid to get too excited, I don’t want to spend the next week laying in bed that I can’t see my family,” Dianne Heckler said.
Burton said there’s a supply issue on a national level. “Everyone always says in another county they’re getting this…no they’re not,” Burton said.
Burton went on to say the county employees only get a fraction of the supplies, with hospitals and other medical offices in the county getting vaccines to distribute as well.
Stay with WFLA for the latest details about the COVID vaccine rollout.
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