The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to people age 65 and older continued at the Volusia County Fairgrounds Jan. 28. With such high demand for only a few thousand doses at a time, Volusia County residents are asking: How can I be one of the lucky few?
“You have a better chance of getting a ticket if you click at 9 a.m. than if you click at 9:15 a.m., but there’s just overwhelming demand. We understand the frustration, and we are truly doing all that we can. We know this is a challenging time,” Volusia County spokeswoman Kate Sark said. “I don’t have any secret tips or tricks, and there aren’t any.”
Port Orange resident Carol Hargy was one of the lucky ones at the fairgrounds Thursday morning, and she booked the appointment herself.
“I had my phone, my iPad, and my desktop all at the same time,” she said.
Hargy’s suggestion? Have the Eventbrite page open before the 9 a.m. opening, and refresh the webpage just before the clock strikes 9 a.m. She might be onto something — two of her three devices managed to get appointments.
For some, the luck of other family members can also help. Take Sharron Gaddy and Mary Lou Allen, two sisters who went to get their shots together.
Gaddy’s sister-in-law recruited friends to help her get an appointment, but when her brother came down with a case of COVID-19, they were unable to use their appointments, so she gave hers and her brother’s to Gaddy and Allen.
Once reserved, appointments are not tethered to a particular individual. Once at the vaccination site, the individual getting vaccinated must show identification proving he or she is at least 65 years of age and a Florida resident.
For others, casting a wide net worked. Steven and Sally Harvey are from Palm Coast, and the two had tried to get into vaccination events closer to home as well as in Volusia County. Finally, they got lucky and got an appointment in Volusia.
Sally Harvey said the website was a little difficult to navigate, and she wished it was a little more obvious what to click in the heat of the moment. All in all, the two were happy.
“It’s like Disney World,” Steven Harvey said, in reference to the lines of cars all being directed around one another. “It’s very well-organized.”
While not getting through to book an appointment can be frustrating, Sark said, residents should remember that with each passing vaccination clinic, fewer people are competing to schedule appointments.
“There’s 2,300 people by the end of the day tomorrow [Jan. 29] who have now gotten the vaccine and are not clicking on that link next week,” she said. “As we vaccinate people, we are slowly eliminating people clicking on that link.”
According to data from the Florida Department of Health, 37,501 Volusia County residents had received vaccinations as of Jan. 26, with 5,915 of those receiving the recommended two shots of the Moderna vaccine.
For the few thousand who get into each clinic, it may just come down to perseverance and the luck of the draw.
“I just lucked out,” said Debra Delio, a New Smyrna Beach resident who has been trying for weeks to get a vaccination appointment. She was set up with her phone and her computer while talking on the phone with her friend Kathy McClelland, who was also on her phone and computer.
“Four devices; we’re talking to each other, and whoever gets in gets in,” McClelland, who came along with Delio to get her shot, said.
Once on the site, a person may request up to two appointments.
McClelland received her first COVID-19 shot last week in Flagler County, and her recommendation was to just keep trying.
“You just have to be persistent,” she said. “You just hang in there.”
The Beacon will continue to update our COVID-19 Q&A with more information about COVID-19 and when and where to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, whenever we receive new information.