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Pinellas County vaccination website down as seniors try to register for coronavirus shots

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County was expected to open registration slots at noon Monday, with vaccinations beginning Tuesday.
Florida Department of Health medical workers prepare to give seniors a COVID-19 vaccination in the parking lot of the Gulf View Square Mall in New Port Richey.
Florida Department of Health medical workers prepare to give seniors a COVID-19 vaccination in the parking lot of the Gulf View Square Mall in New Port Richey. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Jan. 4
Updated Jan. 5

PINELLAS — Pinellas County residents 65 and older were supposed to able to start registering at noon today for coronavirus vaccines. But when they tried to sign up, they couldn’t.

Just as it opened, the county’s online registration portal said its server was busy and that people should check back later. It did not allow people to register.

Related: TUESDAY UPDATE: Vaccine registration limited to phones only for now in Pinellas, Hillsborough

By 7 p.m. Monday, Pinellas County had suspended registration online and over the phone.

Ruth Kern, a 66-year-old from Gulfport, started refreshing the website two minutes before noon. Already, she couldn’t get through.

She tried to call the health department, but that didn’t work either, she said, adding, “you get this message from Verizon saying the line is out of order.”

Next, she sent an email, but all she got back was an automated response: “If you cannot get through on the phone all you can do is keep trying.”

Information about vaccines has been hard to come by, said Kern. She thought it might be easier after the governor recently announced that Floridians her age would soon have access to shots.

“Supposedly, we’re his next priority, but there’s no information,” she said. “They clearly knew this was coming, so I don’t understand why they didn’t make provisions.”

Pre-registration is required for vaccination, and appointments are set to start Tuesday, according to Tom Iovino, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. The registration website is at http://pinellas.floridahealth.gov. The health department phone number is 727-824-6900.

The department acknowledged problems with the vaccine registration system and its phone network Monday afternoon in a press release.

“We understood that there would be an enthusiastic response, and we are working to promptly resolve the issues,” the release said.

As of Jan. 2, Pinellas County had vaccinated 14,947 people, or about 1.5 percent of its population of 974,996, according to the Florida Department of Health. The department will be distributing about 400 vaccines a day, Iovino said.

Vaccines will be administered at these Pinellas locations:

  • Clearwater Health Center, 310 N Myrtle Ave. in Clearwater.
  • Mid-County Health Center, 8175 Ulmerton Road in Largo.
  • St. Petersburg Health Center, 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N in St. Petersburg.

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