By Jonathan Lord
The State of Florida, through its local Health Department, is distributing the Covid-19 vaccine to Flagler County residents, and has set up a vaccination site at the County Fairgrounds.
Flagler County, through its Emergency Management Office, made itself available to the Florida Department of Health-Flagler several months ago for any assistance they may require. The Health Department’s planning process included working with many local agencies/ organizations, developing a plan for the public vaccination process. This process built upon existing plans, modifying them to fit the CDC’s current vaccination phases and guidelines.
These phases prioritized smaller critical groups to be vaccinated first, especially since the initial supply of vaccine was extremely limited.
Approximately a week before the first vaccines for distribution to the public, were received, the Governor issued executive Order 20-315 that required the inclusion of all individuals 65 and older, along with healthcare workers. For Flagler County, this instantaneously added over 30 percent of the population all at once. Ways to subdivide the group were considered, but ultimately the approach would not have been allowed by the State. It will be many months before there is enough vaccine available in our community for those who want it from this group, or the population at large.
Additionally, vaccinations are not allowed to be limited to just those who reside in Flagler County. The process must be made available to people from other areas in the state on an equal basis.
On Monday (Jan. 4), following the first announcement that appointments were available, thousands of people attempted to get an appointment, which were all claimed in under 10 minutes. Later that afternoon we added more appointments, but in less than 5 minutes, before we could even announce them, they were all claimed.
The result of the massive demand for appointments was:
Every single one of our phone lines was tied up for hours. The phone system did not crash, we were just out of incoming phone lines and many people just kept repeatedly hitting redial. The County’s phone system has the capacity to meet every-day demands and foreseeable emergencies. It does not have capacity to serve the unprecedented demand we experienced this week. Previous high demand periods have consumed only about 40% of the system’s capacity. To add capacity to accommodate the demand experienced this week would, for all practical purposes, be cost prohibitive.
Eventbrite gave out all of its appointments in less than 10 minutes. The system did not crash, there just weren’t anymore appointments available. Some people had tickets in their carts that they could not check out with. This is because someone else grabbed those same tickets before the original person completed their check-out.
Many folks signed-up for our text alerts, but did not get a message. The majority of those issues we looked into were due to not texting the exact single word FLAGLERCOVID to 888-777. Others got the message too late. This is typically due to weak phone signals and/or phone network delays in delivering the message, both out of our control.
Every County in Florida is having similar issues, some to a lesser extent than us (typically those with many more resources than your County government has).
So what have we learned from this experience:
Many ways of offering appointments have been explored, each with benefits as well as a drawbacks to different parts of our populace.
For some people the online system is perfect, appointments can be made in seconds. However for others, web-based ticketing is not something they have used before, or internet access is not even available.
For some people calling us is the best way. For others the slower process of making a phone call is not feasible, and for the county is the most resource intensive.
Many feel a waiting list is best. However, others view that as an unfair advantage to someone who may have more free time to call and request to be on a list.
Even though it takes a lot of resources, all three of these options are being offered, with no single option having a priority over the others. Our “waiting list” will be a call back list, in which we promise to call back over the coming months as vaccines are available. The number of people called back will be based on a subset of the available vaccines, each time they are delivered.
The drug companies are working as fast as possible to manufacture more vaccine.
The State is working on a robust Statewide Appointment System that we are hoping will be online next week. This system will accommodate phone as well as online appointments. This allows the entity that controls the vaccine (the State) to also manage the appointments.
However, this does not mean that we will stop supporting the state-led vaccination efforts. We will continue to provide equipment, staff, and volunteers. We will keep the call-center open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., so that we can augment the state call center and continue to help our residents make appointments as they are made available by the state.
At this time, we do not know when more vaccines will be available in Flagler County, nor do we know how many we will get. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be many months before there is enough vaccine for everyone. Over the coming months, there will be additional vaccination options, to include clinics, physicians’ offices, and pharmacies.
Please rest assured that we are doing our best with the resources that we have. We are doing so in a manner that ensures that we remain good stewards of your tax dollars and local government resources, as we support the State in its vaccination efforts.
There is an amazing team of staff and volunteers bending over backwards to serve our community.
Caution! We have received multiple reports of a fake vaccine appointment website. Please make sure you are only using the appointment link found at www.FlaglerCounty.org/covid, when appointments are available. Please do not trust any other links.
Jonathan Lord, a member of the Board of the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, was appointed emergency management director in Flagler County in January 2018.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
I do not understand why residents of other Florida counties are able to come here to obtain vaccines, and vice versa. If each county required its residents to be vaccinated where they reside, which is a logical way to go about it, it would greatly improve the rollout process and shorten the timeline for every Floridian to get a vaccine. In Jonathan Lord’s words, it could be “months and months” before all Flagler residents can be accommodated. That timeline could be cut down dramatically if a new rule restricting people to their own country’s resources were enacted.
They allow people to make appointments for next week and now they are cancelling because they have run out of vaccines! !OH MY GOD! what a mess
Received a Vaccine says
Thank you for providing this great info. I would like to commend the county on the rollout of the vaccine. I was vaccinated on Wednesday at the county fairgrounds, and was very impressed by how well organized and efficient the whole process was. It was well staffed with friendly people who were able to answer all the questions I had.
Joyce Charney says
Just want to let you know your efforts are appreciated…you are facing a tough task and doing the best you can. Thank you
Too funny, I just got my appt on Monday cancelled via a phone call! Never got any text messages about the appt but did get an email which is now void!
Doc W says
It sounds like you are doing the best you can given the circumstances. Bravo!
One issue that is baffling. The vaccines are being distributed to counties proportionate to population. So why not require residency in that county a prerequisite to making an appointment? The stories about what is happening in Palm Beach are disturbing.
My wife & I just got our 1st Covid Moderna vaccination at Flagler Cty fairgrounds. So organized & efficient! Absolutely amazing. Flagler Cty Health Dept & Bob Snyder totally ROCK!👍💥 Understand that getting an appointment is the long pole in the tent; and we were extremely fortunate to get one (which we found out because my wife follows the EOC on Twitter). But make no mistake: As a retired military officer, I can state that Flagler County & the Flagler County Health Department carried this out with military precision, in the most professional & organized manner possible. We never left our car & would have been completely through the process in 20 minutes flat except that I was required to wait for 30 minutes due to a severe reaction I had to the swine flu vaccine in 1976, which used a completely different technology. We are so proud and grateful to be residents of Flagler County and we express our deepest appreciation to Mr. Snyder, County leadership and all of the professional workers we encountered in this effort. I hope all other residents are lucky enough to get their vaccinations soon & will get them and have the same positive experience. By the way, it has now been three hours since injection & neither of us have had any reaction whatsoever!!😄👌👍
I think we appreciate all of the efforts of the Flagler Emergency Chief and the Flagler County staff, and hopefully the supply issues and distribution issues will be resolved soon.
How many of the super cold refrigerators does the county have???
Kevin Foley says
Here’s my message to some friends and thanks so much!!!
Also, in case you are interested, the Moderna vaccination process at the fairgrounds was very well organized and fast. That facility lends itself very well to the need because of its size. There were many helpful volunteers and the shots were done without having to get out of the car.
I got there at 9:30 for a 9:45 appointment and I was out by 10 even with the 15 minute waiting period after the shot. I received a card showing that I got the vaccine. It also shows a date when I am next eligible for the second dose and not before. I’ll have to wait for an alert and then sign-up again for an appointment. Big kudos to the county and Advent Health.
Anew Commarford says
Why are Flagler county seniors not being offered the CividVaccine? I’m willing to wait my turn, but it isn’t even being offered.
The Voice Of Reason says
Anew, seniors 65 and above are eligible to get the vaccine. Follow the Flagler County Health Dept website for appointment availability times. Or the Flagler emergency operations website. I texted FLAGLERCOVID to 888777. No dash between the 8s and 7s. You should get notifications on your phone. (Smartphone) When appointments become available, you need to be on it exactly when the window opens. They are gone in 5-10 minutes.
Donald White says
Mr. Lord articulated many issues and problems with getting the vaccine into arms. I would like to articulate how amazing County staff and the Health Department are, working under such difficult circumstances with so many moving parts. I extend my highest complements and praises to all.
My wife & I just got our 1st Covid Moderna vaccination at Flagler County fairgrounds today. So organized & efficient! Absolutely amazing. Flagler Cty Health Dept & Bob Snyder totally ROCKS!👍💥 Understand that getting an appointment is the long pole in the tent; and we were extremely fortunate to get one (which we found out because my wife follows the EOC on Twitter…a good thing to do).
Make no mistake: As a retired military officer, I can state that Flagler County & the Flagler County Health Department carried this out with military precision, in the most professional & organized manner possible. We never left our car & would have been completely through the process in 20 minutes flat except that I was required to wait for 30 minutes due to a severe reaction I had to the swine flu vaccine in 1976, which used a completely different technology.
We are so proud and grateful to be residents of Flagler County and we express our deepest appreciation to Mr. Snyder, County leadership and all of the professional workers we encountered in this effort. I hope and pray that all other residents are lucky enough to get their vaccinations soon & will get them and have the same positive experience. By the way, it has now been 5 1/2 hours since injection & neither of us have had any reaction whatsoever!!😄👌👍
So happy you got your shot! My husband and I had reservations for Monday but on Friday they cancelled with NO FUTURE DATE! I am so upset, how could they make reservations when they didn’t have enough?
Is there a plan for those who need a second dose of vaccine in approximately 28 days? Has the vaccine for the second dose been stored away for these folks?
Are there vaccines set aside for those lucky enough to receive the first dose? This is a two dose vaccination regimen. What plans in place to insure that we get our second dose in 28 days?
Many citizens of Flagler County do not have smart phones but only carry flip phones and have difficulty texting. Is there a phone number to call to arrange to receive notifications of available times and locations ? Many citizens can receive texts but cannot send them. Thanks for any information you can give us.
Jordan Patin says
Yes! The COVID line for people with difficulties texting or using the website, flaglercounty.org/covid , can call 386-313-4200. I hope that will work for you. Best of luck!