ORLANDO, Fla. – As some South Florida counties begin using a state-operated vaccine appointment system number, Orange County will continue using its own contracted appointment system for the time being because it’s working.
Broward, Duval, Hillsborough and Lee counties began using a Florida Department of Health hotline to book vaccine appointments following a promise earlier this month from Florida’s director of emergency management that a statewide appointment system would be coming.
Jason Mahon, the spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the pilot program will continue to expand to more counties in the coming week.
The Orange County Convention Center vaccine site will continue to use the same vaccine portal it has now used to vaccinate thousands of people in the past three weeks. The site plans to expand from 2,000 shots a day to 2,500 next week.
“My understanding that the state wants to first get it right so they are rolling it out with some South Florida counties initially before it becomes available to all 67 counties. And so until that time occurs, we will continue with the process that we’ve used here,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said about the state appointment number.
The Florida Department of Health’s health officer for Orange County, Dr. Raul Pino, said the state has contracted with a different contractor to set up appointments. Orange County has been using CDR MaGuire’s platform CDR HealthPro to streamline the registration process and plans to continue to use the platform.
Pino said the county will wait and see if the state’s system can “work the kinks” out before using it. He said likely other municipalities will go through the same pains Orange County did when rolling out a new system and “we don’t want to do it twice,” Pino said.
The best way to get a vaccine appointment in Orange County is by registering at OCFL.net/vaccines. Residents can also sign up for email updates to learn about appointments or by receive updates by texting OCFLCOVID to 888777.
Orange County is also in the process of a third option with a different vendor to expand appointment enrollment to clinics and other locations. Q-Flow is a patient management system handling much of the vaccine process in the UK, according to Pino.
“It has worked very well over there so we are also acquiring that technology, in case that these two (options) may not work for whatever reason, but also for the future because we see the future of people making appointments and everything online,” Pino said.
Demings said he along with other leaders from around the nation had a call with the incoming Biden administration last week and communicated their needs.
“We’re going to participate, we’re going to work with the state, we’re going to work with the federal government, we’re going to work with our municipalities and again our entire community that makes sure that there’s no demographic that gets left out of this process,” Demings said, adding “the good news is that a lot of people do want to get vaccinated.”
The mayor projected that by mid-February “we should be firing on all cylinders” in terms of vaccination progress.
Pino said, so far, Orange County has been fortunate to not have run out of vaccines yet and been forced to cancel appointments due to lack of supply like some surrounding areas have.
“As you can see, watching the news at the national level, they are struggling with the production and distribution at the national level,” Pino said. “So we will experience some of that here, so far we have not. We have been very lucky and we have vaccines for the next couple of weeks.”
People hoping to register for a COVID-19 shot at the OCCC site and any other will now have to prove part or full-time residency, after a state-wide order. Now when persons register online they will have three choices: permanent resident, part-time resident or not a resident of Florida. If an individual enters an address outside of the state they will need to answer more questions as well.
Pino said employees at the OCCC will be doing random checks to make sure people’s addresses match with the ones they used to make an appointment.
“I don’t think that we can do it for 2,000 individuals daily because that will slow the process, but we are going to frequently conduct an audit of those who are coming,” Pino said.
According to the Florida Department of Health vaccine report, Orange County has provided more than 56,500 first doses to people and completed more than 12,000 coronavirus inoculations.