Marion County suspends vaccine appointment registration with 50,000 requests

More appointments will open when additional vaccine doses are available

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 23: A bottle of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is seen during a press conference on December 23, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Broward Health Medical Center began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers last week with the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine and are continuing to inoculate frontline caregivers with both of the vaccines after the arrival of the Moderna. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Department of Health in Marion County is set to begin providing people 65 and older with their first doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday after more than 50,000 people requested appointments for shots.

The county opened registration for appointments on Dec. 28 but after receiving more than 50,000 requests, closed its application portal. Officials are asking people to refrain from calling the department’s overloaded phone line.

All vaccinations for people 65 and older will be by appointment only.

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The Department of Health in Marion County temporarily closed registration for the vaccine due to signups exceeding the department’s initial 50,000 registrations cap, according to a news release.

“We’re capping the number of people included in this first round of signups to allow for staff to work through the current list of registrants and get them fully vaccinated,” Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander said. “We will re-open registration once the first group of 50,000 registrants completes their vaccinations.”

DOH staff are working to call all people who request appointments. After the call back and screening process, they should receive a vaccine appointment.

“Due to the number of people who registered, it will take multiple weeks to work through the registrant list and schedule appointments,” the DOH said in a news release.

Residents also experienced delays getting through to request an appointment on the phone because of the large volume of phone calls, according to the DOH.

“Because the phone lines are jammed, staff are also experiencing difficulty calling out from the facility, and calls are being dropped,” the DOH statement read.

The department is asking people to refrain from call the DOH to follow up on their appointments. A staff member will return appointment request calls but it could take several weeks.

“People who have signed up in the system will get a call back once the vaccine is available and a time and location is set for them to receive it,” Lander said. “Please know that we are not sitting on any vaccine here. As soon as vaccination opportunities become available, we are scheduling those vaccination appointments.”

When the county reopens the application process, here’s how you register:

Go to this link and complete the form. For those without access to a computer or smart phone, call the Marion County COVID-19 hotline at 352-644-2590 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and staff will submit the form online for you.

Once eligible residents submit their information on DOH-Marion’s website, they will be placed in line for a call-back by staff to set an appointment. Staff will call to schedule a vaccination appointment as vaccine becomes available.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a two-shot series, with the second shot being provided 28 days after the first shot.