Frustration grows for those seeking COVID-19 vaccinations

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Big Lake area residents continue to be frustrated by the difficulty in obtaining an appointment for COVID-19 vaccinations.

While most residents try to make local appointments, because the vaccine is funded by the federal government, there are no residency requirements.

Anyone who is a health care professional with direct patient contact or over the age of 65 may make an appointment at any vaccination event in the state.

Publix scheduling appointments online

Publix Supermarkets in Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Hernado, Lee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Santa Rosa, St. Johns, Volusia and Walton Counties are conducting COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment only. Appointments can only be made online at https://www.publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida. All available COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Publix Pharmacy have been claimed. Starting Friday, Jan. 22 at 6 a.m. EST, eligible customers can access appointment availability for vaccinations  beginning Saturday, Jan. 23.


Okeechobee callers get busy signals
The Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee County received 300 doses of the vaccine this week. They started taking appointments both in person at the health department or by phone at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. People were waiting in line at 5 a.m.  to secure appointments.  All appointments were quickly booked.  As with previous vaccine clinics, many residents complained they were unable to reach the health department on the phone, despite trying again and again after getting a busy signal. Some report the automated phone system answered but then shut off before they could get through to speak to anyone.

Those who do not have transportation or who can’t take off work to stand in line at the health department are frustrated with their inability to get through on the phones. Health department officials say the volume of calls coming in every time they open vaccination appointments crashes their phone system.

According to the health department, they do occasionally have extra shots if someone who has an appointment does not show up or cannot be given the vaccination due to other health issues. Those over the age of 65 can stop by the health department during vaccinations to see if any doses are available. However, the health department does not want a crowd of people gathered there.

On Jan. 12, the Okeechobee County Government Facebook page posted a message from Okeechobee County Commission Chair Terry Burroughs: “The County Commission continues to receive complaints from our residents regarding setting appointments for COVID-19 vaccine. We understand your frustration, however, the State Department of Health is in control of this situation. If you are having difficulties in obtaining a reservation for vaccination at the Health Department, you need to reach out to your State Representative Kaylee Tuck at 863-462-5019 or your State Senator Ben Albritton at 863-534-0073. Please call and let them know what you are experiencing in our county. The commission will continue to work on resolving these issues, but your help would be greatly appreciated.”

No vaccine in Hendry/Glades
The Hendry/Glades Health Department does not have vaccine at this time and is unable to schedule appointments. The department suggests residents watch their Facebook page for updates at https://www.facebook.com/hendrycountyemergencymanagement.

Palm Beach County calling those in wait list
Since Dec. 29, 2020, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has received more than 200,000 requests for vaccine appointments. As these appointment requests are received, staff at DOH-Palm Beach and community partners are scheduling appointments as quickly as possible, based on vaccine availability. Due to the large current wait list on Tuesday, Jan. 19, DOH-Palm Beach deactivated the chd50feedback@flhealth.gov email address and will focus on scheduling the requests they have already received. Dr. Alina Alonso states that filling all appointment requests will take months.

After all these requests have been fulfilled, future appointments will be made available directly through vaccination sites.

Martin County mailbox full
Martin County residents have been advised to make a vaccination appointment by calling Florida Department of Health in Martin County at 772-221-4000, option #3. As of Jan. 21, the mailbox was full and not accepting new messages.

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