JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County’s Health Department will be distributing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines on Monday to those 65 years of age and older and to health care workers lucky enough to be given an appointment on the first day.
A phone line opened on Wednesday for booking appointments was flooded and failed to connect the vast majority of callers, causing frustration and outrage. When the online planning went online shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, it took less than 90 minutes to fill the remaining appointments for that week.
The vaccines will be administered at the Prime Osborn Convention Center and 500 appointments were scheduled for Monday. The department hopes to scale up to 1,000 appointments per day over time. The vaccines are free and a second dose is needed to be as effective as possible.
The health department passed this information on to people who come for the vaccination:
- All persons must wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing during the appointment.
- You will need to show government issued identification
- No toilets will be available during the appointment.
- Walk-ins are NOT allowed.
Officials hope the need for appointments will limit the lines and waiting times for each person. Filling out the consent form (available online) also speeds up the process.
Seven lanes will be set up for people to enter at their appointment to get the vaccine. Then they have to wait 15 minutes to make sure there are no side effects. Health workers will be there to monitor these people.
Many who were able to book appointments online were hoping for a confirmation email or text confirmation, but Samantha Epstein of the health department said it won’t, even though they are working to make the process more efficient.
“We understand that there are some questions and concerns about the online appointment system. We’d like to thank the community for their patience as we continue to work to make this process more efficient, ”she wrote to News4Jax on Friday, adding these notes to booking dates that they will hopefully reopen this week:
- We’ve noticed that people make multiple appointments online. Please do not do this as it will block the system and take another time window.
- Make sure you choose a date and time before submitting your form. If a date / time slot is not available on the form, do not submit the form. If you submit the form without a date / time slot, the form will be cleared and you will not have an appointment.
- After the appointment has been set, a confirmation message (popup) is displayed. You will NOT receive a confirmation email. Please take a screenshot of the confirmation message to keep for your records, although it is not required to receive the vaccine.
The pop-up window appears after a COVID-19 vaccine is booked online with the Duval County Health Department. This is the only confirmation the person receives.
The link to schedule an appointment – jax.readyop.com/fs/4cc6/8521 – stays on duval.floridahealth.gov. Individuals will be asked to enter their name, email address, phone number, and date of birth to book their time. No insurance information is required.
Anyone 65 years of age or older and any health care worker who has not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine can get their first dose of vaccine in Duval County. There are no residency requirements, although people are encouraged to get the vaccine in the county where they live.
“This vaccine is not bound by borders. It is provided by the federal government, ”said Dr. Pauline Rolle, the medical executive director of the FDOH-Duval. “We provide it for free. Even if you do not live in Duval, you could still be vaccinated through us. Remember, however, that other counties will be rolling out their vaccination efforts and encourage people to get vaccinated in their own counties, we will surely serve everyone from each county. “
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Some callers received the outgoing message from the health department, then a fast busy tone or the call ended abruptly. Many callers received messages that the call could not be completed or that the line was out of service. Officials urged patience and kept trying.
“If you are over 65 and trying to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Duval County Health Department says the phone lines are working and please keep calling 253-1140,” the city wrote on Wednesday on their Facebook page. “We get a large number of calls, so callers may not get through right away. We ask the callers to come with us when we try to reach each individual. Every appointment is important to us. “
News4Jax heard from dozens of people who were frustrated that they couldn’t get through. A health care worker who wanted to remain anonymous said she could book an appointment after calling 950 times over a two hour period.
“I made a plan in advance,” she said. “I had two cell phones and my business phone set up on my computer and I actually started talking a few minutes before 8am and just scrolled systematically through each phone.”
When it came to how quickly she could make the appointment:
“The call itself probably took about a minute,” she said. “Make an appointment and that’s it.”
The health care worker says she has direct daily contact with potential COVID-19 patients.
“In our organization, some people died as a result of COVID. And I have an elderly family member who lives in my house and it’s important to have the opportunity to get vaccinated for me and eventually him and I know that will protect us, ”she said.
Frontline workers at local hospitals first got their admissions at UF Health Jacksonville two weeks ago, followed by other medical centers. CVS and Walgreen’s are currently working with the state to vaccinate employees and residents of long-term care facilities.
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