After 24 hours of public frustration over a phone line that got overwhelmed by the volume of callers, Brevard County has established a new online system for people over 65 looking to set up an appointment to get the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
But the county announced late Wednesday that all vaccine appointment slots are filled for now.
“Once Brevard is confirmed for additional vaccines, we will make more appointments available,” the county’s Emergency Management Department said in a tweet. “There is no wait list. Walk-in appointments are not accepted.”
The Florida Department of Health-Brevard ran out of appointment slots even though the department also had decided Wednesday to double the hours the vaccinations would be administered from three hours a day to six hours a day on weekdays.
The changes came after many hundreds of residents were frustrated and angry after calling a Department of Health number that was busy, didn’t answer or gave callers a message saying that the number was no longer in service.
When more vaccine is available, appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations through the Department of Health can be made online via the Eventbrite platform at the following link: https://brevardcovidvaccine.eventbrite.com
Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said anyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine who contacted DOH-Brevard, but does not have an appointment, needs to sign up through Eventbrite.
Appointments no longer can be made by telephone.
Online appointments for the free vaccinations of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those ages 65 and older, as well as health care workers who provide direct patient care, but who are not associated with a hospital system.
The Department of Health also has extended the hours of the vaccinations from three hours a day to six hours a day, starting Tuesday, Jan. 5. On Monday, Jan. 4, vaccinations will be given for three hours, as previously scheduled, starting at 1:15 p.m.
Starting Tuesday, vaccinations will be provided from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1:15 to 4:15 p.m. on weekdays.
The drive-through vaccination clinic will be held at the Department of Health complex at 2555 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera.
A driver’s license or health care badge is required at time of appointment.
You do not have to be a Brevard County or a Florida resident to be eligible.
Anita Stremmel, the county’s assistant Health Department director, emphasized that “anyone who called or emailed us here at the Health Department and that does not have an appointment will need to use this new automated system.”
Trouble with the phone lines began Tuesday and continued Wednesday, Brevard residents reported.
Susan Champaigne said she attempted to call the appointment line for three hours Tuesday, and was unable to get through.
Champaigne said she couldn’t imagine what “officials were thinking when they didn’t set up more lines and email addresses. People feel that this is a life-or-death situation and want this vaccine.”
Amelia Clements of West Melbourne also was among those who have experienced frustration trying to make an appointment by phone.
“I wish there was some way to make an appointment online,” Clements said before the new system was established. “I am scared and I am frustrated.”
Palm Bay resident Gregory Clifford was having no luck in multiple calls to the Department of Health, seeking an appointment for a vaccination for himself and his wife. He said, when he tried to call, the appointment line briefly rang, then disconnected.
“I understand how they can be overwhelmed” with callers, Clifford said, while adding that the Department of Health should have anticipated the high call volume.
“It’s just frustrating,” Clifford said.
It is no surprise the call volume was high. About 24% of Brevard residents are 65 or older, or about 146,000 people, according to U.S. Census data.
The problems are not limited to Brevard.
The Orange County Health Department announced it was closing its online scheduling system less than 24 hours after launch, after booking nearly 30,000 appointments.
A FLORIDA TODAY reporter’s calls to vaccine scheduling hotlines in Marion, Osceola and Seminole counties also went unanswered or were quickly disconnected.
Palm Beach County’s rollout also has faced significant stumbles. A vaccination hotline for seniors there has been overwhelmed, resulting more in frustration than assistance.
Florida Rep. Randy Fine said the vaccine rollout in Brevard and around the state had “room for improvement.”
“Obviously, there are tens of thousands of people trying to get through. … There’s a huge amount of demand,” Fine said. “I’m working with the state to open up greater throughput” for distribution.
Two doses needed
Florida Department of Health nurses will administer the Moderna vaccine in Viera. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccination series is two doses, given one month apart. Health officials say if you receive one dose of the Moderna vaccine, you should receive a second dose of the same vaccine one month later to complete the vaccination series.
Brevard County residents who schedule an appointment for a vaccine should print out and complete the COVID-19 vaccine screening and consent form to bring to the appointment for more efficient service.
The COVID-19 vaccine screening and consent form, as well as the Moderna facts and privacy form, can be found at the Florida Department of Health Brevard’s COVID-19 testing information website, http://brevard.floridahealth.gov/events/2021/01/covid19-vaccination.html
Anyone who answers “yes” to any screening questions will need to bring a doctor’s note to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccine: Experts talk misconceptions
In this excerpt from the Florida Pulse, leading state experts talk about the rollout and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rob Landers and Isadora Rangel, Florida Today
One of the county’s largest employers, Brevard Public Schools, announced late Tuesday it would work with the schedules of teachers and staff who are eligible for the vaccine and who make appointments — which largely fall during business hours.
“BPS is committed to providing easy accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine for our most at-risk employees currently eligible to receive it (and interested in doing so),” Superintendent Mark Mullins said in a statement.
Gov. Ron DeSantis insisted Wednesday morning that Florida’s top priority for COVID-19 vaccinations should be its vulnerable older residents.
“The priority now has got to be with our elderly population, our grandparents and our parents,” he said during an appearance at the Kings Point retirement community in Delray Beach. Residents received the coronavirus vaccine after the governor spoke.
The governor’s appearance came as concerns grow across the country, and Florida, about a much slower-than-expected rollout of the long-awaited vaccine.
The Palm Beach Post contributed to this report.
Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @bydaveberman
Eric Rogers is the education watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricRogersFT.
To subscribe: https://cm.floridatoday.com/specialoffer/