Pinellas officials call for more state communication, better online reservation system for COVID-19 vaccines

The senior citizens who lined up Tuesday to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine represented just a fraction of the thousands who were foiled by phone lines and confounded by a crashed website.

"Why this has become such a monumental dumpster fire is just beyond me," said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long Wednesday. 

Long says the state controls the vaccine supply and Governor Ron DeSantis should increase communication with local governments that could help deliver the vaccine more efficiently.

Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton says specially-trained firefighters are prepared to man four additional sites where they could administer vaccines to seniors, but the plan has to be approved by the state. 

"We offered that as a solution because there seems to be a lag in a unified effort by the state on how they’re going to do a mass distribution of the vaccine," says Burton. 

Long agrees with Burton and added, "We have the expertise to get things done."

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Long says 11 county-owned community health centers are available for vaccinations.

Pinellas County officials say there needs to be a better online reservation system for residents to schedule vaccines. 

"It’s the key to everything," Long explained. 

She says if Amazon and Ticketmaster can handle millions of customers, technology should be available for a life-saving vaccine. But, again, local officials say they can’t put up a new registration system without the state on board. 

"If they want us to stand up an infrastructure that can handle mass distribution, we can do that, but there’s no sense in investing in infrastructure if, in fact, they’re going to use another method to do that," Burton said. 

Officials have assured FOX 13 that more vaccine is on the way as seniors try to balance frustration with patience.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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