Hillsborough fires vendor responsible for COVID vaccine 'clown show'

Agreeing with a county commissioner’s characterization of the vaccine rollout as a "clown show," Hillsborough County’s deputy administrator said Wednesday it will be firing the vendor tasked with heading up the call center to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations. 

"We will not be using that vendor for the call centers anymore," Greg Horwedel said. "I want to make that perfectly clear, so if you want to term that as firing the vendor, yes. That vendor will not be handling call-center operations anymore."

The vendor, OnSite Safe, was hired to run the website and call center for the county’s rollout. 

Hillsborough COVID-19 vaccine phone lines jam, leaving seniors 'disgusted'

Hillsborough County reached capacity Tuesday for its first round of COVID-19 vaccine reservations, capping a hectic two-day signup period.

The public dismissal came after a rough two days for Hillsborough County. Dropped phone lines, long wait times, and crashed websites left senior citizens scrambling to get appointments for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"We did manage to get 9,000 appointments made, but the reality is, what happened on Monday and Tuesday did not meet our expectations," Horwedel said in a phone call with FOX 13.

Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said the call center had over 2,000 calls a minute at one point. By Wednesday, the call center and the web portal were shut down. 

But then, the county discovered what OnSite Safe had done without their knowledge: Hred a subcontractor to handle the calendar portion of the job.

"They subcontracted with Acuity for the calendaring software," Horwedel said. "In our vendor’s eyes, that probably was a reasonable choice. But when there’s no direct accountability… we had very little ability to tell them to do anything."

As for next steps, Horwedel says they are looking at an alternative vendor to do the call center.

"We are looking to get that done in the next day or so," he added.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed throughout the state of Florida, individual counties are beginning to release information about how and to whom the two-dose vaccine will be distributed.