DOH Plans New Initiatives To Ease Vaccine Frustrations

Tiffany Razzano

SARASOTA COUNTY, FL — In an effort to make it easier for people to register for and receive the coronavirus vaccination, the Department of Health in Sarasota County is planning drive-thru distribution clinics throughout the county and a new call-in registration system, Steve Huard, a DOH spokesperson, said during a Friday news conference.

Accessing the vaccine has been a source of frustration for many Sarasota County residents since the DOH received its first shipment Dec. 28. Whenever the DOH opens registration for its limited supply of vaccine, the appointments fill quickly, often within minutes.

The demand is significantly greater than the supply, said Charles Henry, DOH health officer, at a previous press conference. On Jan. 3, when the agency made 800 vaccination time slots available through Eventbrite, an online ticketing platform, there were 167,000 hits to the page.

"Even if you're very tech savvy, there are so many people trying to get those slots that it fills up rapidly," Henry said.

The DOH in Sarasota exhausted its supply of vaccine Friday but expects to receive more soon. There’s no exact timeframe for when the next shipment will arrive, how many doses the county will receive and which of the two vaccines – Pfizer or Moderna – will be sent, Huard said.

In the meantime, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, used its remaining supply — about 3,000 doses — to vaccinate the public Saturday and Sunday.

Huard said the DOH and the county is preparing for the next shipment by planning drive-thru vaccination sites, most likely mid-county. The agency hasn't identified specific locations yet, though.

The DOH will also launch a call-in system for people who don't have access to a computer or aren't tech savvy to register for vaccine appointments by phone, he said.

As of Sunday at 12:05 a.m., 15,507 people in Sarasota have received at least the first of the two coronavirus vaccine doses, according to state data.

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Florida has launched a COVID-19 Vaccine Report that will be updated daily at www.FloridaHealthCOVID19.gov. This report includes a breakdown of who has received the vaccine by age, race, sex and county.

For more information about coronavirus and its vaccinations in Sarasota County, visit www.SarasotaHealth.org.

Residents can also sign up for Sarasota County's emergency alert system by texting "SRQCOVID19" to 888777. The county will send text alerts when vaccination registration is available.

This article originally appeared on the Sarasota Patch