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Florida to add additional phone operators to improve COVID-19 vaccine appointment process

'We're working on helping people address it,' Gov. Ron DeSantis says
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Jan. 6, 2021
Posted at 11:25 AM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 11:25:54-05

PENSACOLA, Fla. — In an effort to improve the difficult appointment process for getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday the state is providing a surge of additional operators to answer phone calls on vaccine appointment hotlines.

"It's a totally valid concern, and we're working on helping people address it," DeSantis said during a news conference in Pensacola.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Since Florida began vaccinating people 65 and older just days ago, county health department phone lines and email systems have been overwhelmed with residents seeking to make an appointment.

Palm Beach County's appointment hotline quickly crashed last week because it could only handle 150 calls at a time, according to a health department spokesperson.

You can now only make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County through email.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County tweeted that "Your emails to chd50feedback are being received, even if you do not get an auto-response. We appreciate your patience as we work on this."

DeSantis said on Wednesday the state is "surging" additional "telephone folks" to help county health departments with the appointment making process.

"Some people just want to talk to somebody. And they don't know internet as much as we think that everyone does," DeSantis said.

The governor admitted there simply isn't enough supply of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida to meet the current demand of residents 65 and older, but he thinks things will eventually improve.

"I don't think it's gonna take three months. But I think every week we'll get more, and then more and more people will be able to do it," DeSantis said.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Florida has come under fire, with reports of long lines at vaccination sites and poor registration systems.

The governor said, despite those issues, he still feels hospitals and county health departments -- which currently control the distribution of the vaccine to residents 65 and older -- are the best avenues to inoculate the population.

"What you don't want the government to do is to try to displace our health care infrastructure that we have here. They know what they're doing. They have how to deliver this," DeSantis said. "That's really a better delivery mechanism than to have everyone kind of go through the government, or have the government in a situation of having to do it."

The governor added he hopes a pilot program at Publix pharmacies in three Florida counties will be successful in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, as this could expand access to the vaccine across the state.

"You're gonna see this all over the state very, very soon," DeSantis said. "We're gonna do way more shots this week than we did last week, and we'll do more shots next week than we do this week."