WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County leaders on Thursday said they understand the frustrations people are experiencing with trying to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Problem is, there just simply isn't enough vaccine to go around.
"There is room to do better. We can do better," Mayor Dave Kerner said during a news conference in West Palm Beach.
The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County is now administering the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, health care workers with direct patient contact, long-term care facility residents and staff, and people deemed to be "extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers."
However, many residents have criticized the difficulty of the appointment system.
"We are trying to make things better," said county health director Dr. Alina Alonso. "Be patient. Everyone, please be patient."
WATCH HEALTH DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT:
Last week, Palm Beach County's COVID-19 vaccine appointment hotline quickly became overwhelmed with calls and stopped working.
Alonso said the errors and glitches with the initial rollout have been acknowledged and fixed.
Currently, the only way you can request an appointment is by emailing the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County at email@example.com. Include your name, phone number, and date of birth in your email.
Alonso said the email process is currently the "best system" Palm Beach County has to keep track of everyone who wants a vaccine. She added that the county health department will soon add an automatic reply to emails, saying you can can expect to receive a callback in weeks or months to make an appointment.
Kerner said there is currently a supply chain issue with the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, and once those issues are resolved and more vaccine is received, the county has a "robust plan" in place to vaccinate more residents.
"There is an expectation that, in due time, the supply chain will open up dramatically, and we are well prepared and you will be protected," Kerner said.
Alonso said she requests more vaccine from the state every day, but at this time, Palm Beach County doesn't have a sufficient amount of doses to implement a large-scale vaccination operation
"The state does not have sufficient quantity to give everybody what they're requesting at this time. That's a fact," Alonso said. "The county health department expects to receive sufficient quantities of vaccine in the weeks to come to begin a large-scale vaccination effort."
Palm Beach County is currently vaccinating around 500 people per day, mainly those 65 and older and health care workers.
Alonso said the county's vaccination effort will expand over the next several months as more vaccine comes in. There will be six regional vaccine centers, various points of distribution, clinic operations, and mobile community pop-up sites where residents can get vaccinated.
"We do not want to be like some of these counties that are doing first-serve, first-come. And you have people lying in pods and wheelchairs waiting to get an appointment overnight. I will not accept that in Palm Beach County," Alonso said.
Saying we're in the "last leg" of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials urged everyone to continue wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing and sanitizing your hands frequently, and avoiding crowded, enclosed spaces.
"We will get through this together, and we're almost at the finish line," Kerner said.