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Florida books 600,000 shot appointments in statewide website's first week

Only 15 of 67 counties have opted-in
Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 18:09:03-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A week after the state launched its new vaccine registration site, few counties are using it.

Florida Emergency Management launched the portal last Friday to help local governments cut down on confusion and overwhelmed appointment systems.

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Nancy Mock was one of the first Floridians to try it, desperate to get her life back on track.

"I haven't been to church. I haven't done anything outside the house other than get groceries," she said. "I had them delivered to the car."

Mock first tried signing up through Gadsden County Public Health. Officials told her it could take two to three weeks before a shot was available. Instead, Mock said she bypassed the line with a few clicks. The site notified her shortly after that something was available.

Dr. Julie Swann of North Carolina State
Dr. Julie Swann says Florida is not alone in attempting to create a COVID-19 vaccination system from the ground up, which is causing problems.

"I just happened on the website that got me here," she said.

Not everyone is as enamored. Some have reported confusion, unaware if their county is participating in the program.

Publix, which has committed 325 locations to vaccinating those 65 and older, is sticking with its booking systems for now.

"We know that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed," said Dr. Julie Swann, who heads the department of industrial and systems engineering at North Carolina State University.

Swann researches improvements to the operation of health and humanitarian systems. She said Florida's frustrations were not unique.

Many have started racing to bolster or create systems from the ground up. Issues are bound to arise.

"States across the entire nation are having some road bumps with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine," Swann said.

As of Thursday, more than two million people had preregistered through the state site. Department of Emergency Management officials reported more than 600,000 had scheduled appointments. About 140,000 had received shots.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says more Florida counties are expected to join the state's new vaccine registration site.

Numbers will grow higher as more county health departments opt-in. But, at last check, only 15 of 67 have done so. The counties we know of include: Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Duval, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Leon, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Osceola and Santa Rosa.

"We're hoping that the state compels the counties to really opt-in to the statewide website as soon as possible," said State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park.

Smith is the ranking Democrat on the Public Health Subcommittee. The state has told him many counties were expecting to join after clearing a backlog of appointments in their current systems.

"We hope that in the next couple of weeks, some of that stuff will shake out, and we'll see a more uniform process," Smith said.

Some upgrades are in the works as well. DEM said technicians are adding language options to the site, like Spanish. They were also connecting hospitals to the system, currently the only place to book for those under 65 with multiple medical conditions.

Here are some things to remember about the state's vaccine registration system:

  • To date, 15 of Florida's 67 counties have opted-in
  • More than 2 million have preregistered
  • More than 600,000 have scheduled appointments
  • About 140,000 have received shots
  • In the coming weeks, more counties were expected to join after clearing appointments in their systems
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