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Pasco’s latest vaccine slots filled up in 8 minutes

2,100 appointments were opened for this week on Sunday. More than half were taken within a minute.
2,100 vaccination appointments opened in Pasco County on Sunday. They were filled within 8 minutes.
2,100 vaccination appointments opened in Pasco County on Sunday. They were filled within 8 minutes. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jan. 25, 2021|Updated Jan. 25, 2021

When new vaccination appointments opened in Pinellas County last weekend, the spots ran out in less than an hour. When new appointments appeared in Pasco County a day later, on Sunday, the rush to sign up was even more frantic: CDR Maguire, the company that manages appointment bookings for much of Tampa Bay, said half of the 2,100 new slots were taken within a minute, and all were filled within eight minutes.

Those 65 and older who managed to get through the booking portal landed appointments on Monday, Wednesday or Friday at Saint Leo University. But in a scenario that’s already played out several times, a lot of people were disappointed. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County said 20,000 people tried to register.

On Facebook and Twitter, disappointed applicants — or those who had tried to sign up on the behalf of older relatives or friends — expressed familiar frustration with CDR Maguire, whose system requires patients to book both first and second appointments before either is confirmed. Some complained of the scheduling system; others said they thought they’d succeeded, only to get the spinning widgets and error messages that have stymied many others.

Related: Tampa Bay officials say vaccine sign-up bugs fixed, but delays unavoidable

In its statement, CDR Maguire said everyone who successfully booked appointments did so in pairs — that is, nobody was only registered for a first vaccination. Earlier this month, the company’s executive vice president said the problems users experienced were the result of the volume of hits to the system, and that a coding problem that produced the error messages had been fixed.

The company maintained in its statement Monday that the problems are not with its system but with the large number of people vying for a small number of appointments.

“We need to ensure we are continuing the message that the system worked and all available appointments were booked; however, there is just not enough supply to meet the demand at this time,” the company said.

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