Polk Co. testing online vaccine registration platform that’s expected to go live soon, commissioner says

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County will be wading into the fraught waters of online vaccine registration in the coming days as officials test the platform for crash risks.

“That’s what they’ve been doing for the last five days, is trying to get this thing to get crash-proof,” said county commissioner Bill Braswell.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County launched a new phone system on Friday to register people over the age of 65 for the vaccine. Residents who meet the criteria for the vaccine can call (863) 298 – 7500 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Officials tell 8 On Your Side the system received 100 to 150 calls per second.

The long wait times have frustrated residents, many of whom have contacted 8 On Your Side.

“We’re trying to get to everybody as quickly as possible so that we can gather their information and put them on our registration list,” said Nicole Riley, a spokesperson for the Dept. of Health in Polk County.

Riley said the call center is staffed by 20 employees, and growing.

On Tuesday, 1,000 people were vaccinated at a drive-thru event at Polk State College. They signed up over the phone Friday.

“Polk County should be really proud of how, at least from my experience, how this process went,” said George Lord, who waited on hold for an hour and a half and was pleased with how the in-person process went on Tuesday.

As other counties’ online registration platforms struggle, Polk County is working to avoid those complications.

Braswell said the county is using the same software it used for the CARES Act relief money rollout last year, which ran smoothly.

It’s working with internet providers to avoid any issues.

“They will automatically shut things down that get blasted with hits because they assume it’s like a spam attack or something like that,” said Braswell.

Braswell anticipates the site to go live soon, if testing goes as planned.

“If everything goes OK today, it will be able to handle 100,000 [reservations] a day which would pretty much handle everybody,” he said.

The county is using up its 5,400 vaccines at events this week.

“We were quick to be able to stand up this great event today and get a thousand residents in and so once we receive word, we’ll be doing the same from here moving forward as those vaccines become available,” said Riley.

Residents can check the Polk County website for updates about online registration platforms.

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