People who live in a skilled nursing/long-term care facility, work in one, or work as first responders started getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in mid-December. When Pinellas started vaccinating other people the week of January 4, the rollout process could have gone smoother. Within moments of the noon go-live date for scheduling vaccine appointments, the county’s scheduling system – which used a Outlook 365 platform – collapsed. Phone lines rang busy or went unanswered.
Clearly, the demand for the vaccine currently outweighs supply.
The Gabber reached out to the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County to get answers to basic questions about who can get the vaccine, and how. Here’s how the first part of the vaccine distribution works.
If you live or work in a skilled nursing facility, the state has already contacted your facility. This is per Governor DeSantis’s executive order.
If you are a frontline healthcare worker, the state has sent doses to major hospitals around Florida. Those hospitals, in turn, distributed the doses to other hospitals in their area.
If you are 65 or older, the state sent Pinellas County 3,000 doses. Various venues (the VA, for example) allowed people to make appointments to get the vaccine. The Health Department has no appointments available, although at press time the Gabber had heard anecdotal reports of facilities with a venue available, as well as reports of residents who registered and got vaccinated in neighboring counties.
If you have an underlying health condition that makes you high-risk but are 64 or younger, that’s where this gets tricky. Tom Iovino, Public Information Officer for Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, said those people should “talk to their doctors about the possibility of getting vaccinated through their local hospital,” but when we called a local doctor they expressed surprise, saying that they had no idea how to make that happen. Iovino referred the Gabber to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, but calls and emails to their communications office went unanswered; if they respond, the Gabber will update this article online at thegabber.com.
If you are an essential worker, it’s not yet your time. Plus, everyone from teachers to gun range employees classify as “essential” according to cisa.gov; according to Iovino, Governor DeSantis will determine the hierarchy, and as new doses become available, DOH in Pinellas will have a new appointment-making procedure in place.
“Due to the troubles we had last week, we’re looking at establishing a more robust platform,” Iovino said.