As one of several people in the 65-and-over priority group to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, I can say we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be among the 50,000 Floridians to have been vaccinated as of January 12.
Unlike the experience of so many other seniors desperate to receive the vaccination, we experienced a relatively seamless process from getting an appointment to being vaccinated.
Alerted on Tuesday, January 5 that the Jackson Health System had opened appointment slots on its website for vaccinating residents over age 65, we immediately visited the site, and were fortunate to get an appointment for Sunday, January 11, at Jackson’s Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami. Jackson System is also offering vaccines at Jackson Hospital South, and Jackson Hospital North.
Twenty minutes after we got our confirmed appointment, people who we alerted to the website were unable to get appointments for any of the slots available through January 6 to 11.
Cognizant of news reports of long lines and waiting times to be vaccinated despite having an appointment, we arrived at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center 30-minutes before our scheduled 12:15 pm appointment. But were pleasantly surprised at the profound professionalism and ease in which the process was conducted from arriving at the center, registered for the vaccine, and vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. The entire process took about 20 minutes, plus a post-vaccine wait period of 30 minutes to ensure we had no allergic reaction. We also got an appointment for the follow-up vaccine on January 31.
Unfortunately, the demand for the vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna, far exceeds the available supply. The state has received only a limited supply of both vaccines, reported to be just over 1.6 million, but with just 500,000 distributed, to be applied to Florida’s top two priority groups, healthcare workers and seniors over age 65.
Officials, private and public hospitals in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have been active in setting up multiple sites where seniors can be vaccinated, but in most cases to be vaccinated residents need a confirmed appointment. Because of the overwhelming demand each time a website is announced for appointments, the limited appointment slots are filled within minutes. It’s a similar situation with phone lines established to make appointments.
Two weeks ago, Broward County established a designated phone line for appointments, but the line crashed within hours because of the overwhelming demand.
Last Thursday Baptist Health in Miami opened its website for appointments at 10:00 am. Within one hour 13,000 appointments were made and no more were available. The site encourages people to revisit for new appointment openings.
Miami-Dade County also opened a website (MiamiDade.gov/vaccine) for appointments, but each time the appointment window was opened, the available appointments were filled within some 15 minutes.
To get COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Palm Beach County seniors are required to send emails to the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach County at [email protected]
Initially, the county had established an appointment hotline but that was soon overwhelmed. On Tuesday it was reported that the email system is also being overwhelmed and experiencing technological breakdowns with over 100,000 residents attempting to get appointments.
Those needing an appointment need relentlessly visit the respective websites to get the appointment and must be assured they get a confirmation number when the appointment is secured. As observed at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center on Sunday, some people who came to the center believing they had secured appointments were turned away because they did not receive a confirmation number.