Registration begins Friday afternoon for vaccination appointments

A worker prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a recent vaccination event in Largo. The Department of Health in Pinellas County’s patient portal for residents 65 and older will open at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, to book appointments for vaccinations, starting early next week. Appointments for the 10,000 new doses are expected to be filled quickly.

The Department of Health in Pinellas County’s patient portal for residents 65 and older will open at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, to book appointments for vaccinations, starting early next week. Appointments for the 10,000 new doses are expected to be filled quickly.

Appointments are mandatory to get COVID-19 vaccine shot and can be scheduled online through the CDR HealthPro, www.PatientPortalFL.com.

Residents accessing the portal prior to 3 p.m. on Friday will be able to create an account, but will not be able to book their appointment until the set time of 3 p.m. on Friday. Accounts can be created even when appointments are not being booked.

Creating an account does not guarantee availability for this round of appointments. It just makes it quicker to schedule an appointment. There will be no vaccines for residents without appointments, and there is no waiting list. Everyone needs their own account to book an appointment, including family members.

Appointments will be scheduled at sites in various parts of the county. Details about access to the vaccine distribution sites will be given to residents upon appointment confirmation. Appointments for the required second dose can be made at the time of scheduling.

Those without internet access or who need assistance with the portal can call 844-770-8548. The call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide guidance in English and Spanish. However, residents with the ability to access the internet is “strongly encouraged to use the online portal, as phone wait times can be lengthy,” according to a media release.

Tom Iovino, public information office for DOH in Pinellas, said the new shipment of 10,000 is for first doses with a separate supply chain bringing in vaccine in time for second doses booked through DOH.

Appointments for second doses are made when the appointment for the first dose is made. Those appointments are in about three weeks, depending on the type of vaccine you receive. Vaccine administered by DOH has mostly been from Pfizer and the doses are given 21 days apart.

DOH’s four public vaccination sites are operated by volunteers from county paramedic crews from around the county. Those arriving ahead of schedule may be turned away and instructed to return at their scheduled time.

As of Jan. 27, 69,716 first and second doses of vaccine had been administered in Pinellas by DOH, hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and others authorized to administer the vaccine under the emergency order from the Federal Drug administration.

Residents have expressed frustration about the inability to get appointments for the vaccine. In Pinellas, there have been technical glitches with the website and phone service. When things are working, it takes less than an hour before all the appointments are gone.

Iovino reminded the public that as of Dec. 12, zero doses of the vaccine had been administered anywhere in the United States. In just over a month, about 40 million shots have been given, which is a large number is a short amount of time.

He said people just need to be patient as supply chains continued to ramp up.

“The number of those vaccinated will increase as doses of vaccine become available,” he said.

According to new rules by the state, patients must show proof of Florida residency to receive a vaccine. Examples include: a valid Florida Drivers License, state issued ID, deed or utility bill with the patient's name and address. Part-time residents will be asked to provide a part-time rental agreement.

For the latest information on vaccine appointments and updates, residents can check https://covid19.pinellascounty.org/vaccines, or the Department of Health in Pinellas County at www.PinellasHealth.com.

Suzette Porter is TBN's Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.