Polk County opens COVID-19 vaccine appointment hotline for seniors

Phoneline will be staffed Monday-Friday during business hours

How quickly do I need a second COVID-19 vaccine shot? AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin (Peter Hamlin)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – The Polk County Department of Health opened a phoneline Friday to begin making vaccine appointments for people 65 and older.

In early January, Florida was vaccinating only three priority groups: Health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents and people 65 or older. The health care group includes EMTs and paramedics as well as Department of Health staff.

[TRENDING: 4 die in Capitol revolt | What you need to know about stimulus check | How to get the vaccine in Fla.]

With Polk County’s vaccination site, all 10 counties in the Central Florida region will now be offering the shots to residents 65 and older. Eligible groups do not need to be a resident of the county and/or city where they are vaccinated.

To make an appointment in Polk County, call 863-298-7500 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline opened Jan. 8 to a heavy call volume, according to the county.

Once a resident is given an appointment they will be given the location of the vaccine site.

Employees staffing the phone line will help make a “limited number of vaccine appointments scheduled for next week.” After those appointments are filled, callers will be placed on a registration list for future openings, according to the Polk County DOH.

“Due to heavy call volumes, callers may experience a busy signal and we ask for their patience as this process continues. It is estimated that the call center Friday morning was receiving more than 100 calls per second,” county officials said.

County officials said they hope to schedule about 1,000 appointments for two events next week. The first round of appointments were quickly filled up Friday.

“Polk County’s Board of County Commissioners has partnered with the Florida Department of Health to help facilitate and expedite the vaccinations in our county,” Polk County Commission Chairman Rick Wilson said in a statement. “Due to the limited supply of vaccine, there will be a high demand from the public and we want to make sure we have the resources necessary to meet that demand.”

The hotline will be operated by the DOH and the Polk County Emergency Operations Center.

Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed Thursday that Florida is expected to get about 250,000 new COVID-19 vaccine doses next week that will be split roughly in half between Moderna and Pfizer shots.

Polk County received its first doses of the shots on Dec. 28 and has given out more than 5,400.