WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health announced Tuesday that Palm Beach County residents 65 years old and older can call to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, however the number was not working midday.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
DOH posted a number, 561-625-5180, on their website, but spokesman Alex Shaw later said the hotline is currently down, and they are working to resolve the problems.
"Our appointment line can only take 150 calls at a time and is currently overwhelmed," Shaw said.
Palm Beach County Health Dept says phone line for seniors to make vaccine appointments is down after being “overwhelmed” with calls.— Matt Sczesny WPTV (@WPTVMatt) December 29, 2020
Health officials said they were encouraged by the high demand for the vaccine, but there are limited doses available.
The Florida Department of Health said they are expanding their infrastructure to handle the high demand.
A tweet by the department then instructed people to "call back next week."
Our appointment line has been overwhelmed. The number is correct. Please call back next week.— HealthyFLPBC (@HealthyFLPBC) December 29, 2020
Health officials said they may either email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call back next week.
"If you email us, or have emailed already we will get back to you to schedule an appointment based upon availability and in the order received. Please include your name, phone number, and date of birth," according to a statement on the Florida Health website.
The DOH is currently concentrating on fulfilling all current appointments and completing frontline health care workers' vaccinations.
Patients are encouraged to speak with their primary care provider to answer questions about the vaccine before receiving it.
Dr. David Dodson said Tuesday the demand for the vaccine is growing.
"Our office is flooded with calls right now with people wanting to get the vaccine," Dodson said.
Dr. Alina Alonso, the head of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said earlier this month that the Moderna vaccine is being distributed in the county.
Health care workers at multiple hospitals in the county started being vaccinated last week.
Dodson said physicians are currently registering with the state to receive the vaccine for their patients.
"Doctors' offices need to be registered with Florida SHOTS, that's the statewide vaccine registry, and then assume once the vaccine is available it'll go to doctors' offices and CVS and Walgreens pharmacies for distribution," Dodson said.
He expects that will likely happen sometime between February and April, depending on how quickly vaccines can be made and if more drug makers receive approval.
"Right now, we need to be patient, but eventually, it'll come to a point where you'll be able to be vaccinated in a doctor's office or in a local pharmacy," Dodson said.
Dr. Larry Bush of the Palm Beach County Medical Society is an investigator with the trial for AstraZeneca's vaccine, which could receive approval in the United Kingdom this week.
"The advantage of these vaccines that are coming close to the end now, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, is at least the AstraZeneca one … has millions and millions of doses already made and ready to be shipped. Two, it doesn't need a special shipment. It can stay in the refrigerator for six months," Bush said.
Doctors believe widespread vaccination could happen by spring. Bush said more vaccines will lead to achieving herd immunity faster in 2021.
"As long a people get in line and get the vaccine, and we have to get to that 70, 80, 90 percent rapidly as soon as they are available, but yes, when that happens [we'll see a drop in cases within months],'" Bush said.
Those who have additional questions about the vaccine can call 1-866-779-6121 or email COVIDemail@example.com.