Lee County fills 1,800 vaccine appointments within minutes on Wednesday

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The phone lines opened up at noon Wednesday to book appointments for vaccines this week in Lee County. But as we’ve seen, the slots can fill up very quickly.

The county said it filled all 1,800 appointments for Thursday and Friday within just a few minutes of open the reservation phone line.

Many people have said they’re frustrated with this call-in system after having called dozens of times to no avail.

MORE: Click here for the latest vaccine schedules and resources

“It was so frustrating because you’d hang up, you’d dial again, you’d get the busy, you’d dial again,” said Cherie McArthur of Lee County. “People I know just never got through or never got a callback.”

Tidal Basin, the company the county uses to schedule the appointments, says it made some upgrades over the last week to try to eliminate those issues, that it’s transitioned to a larger call center to increase call capacity as well as avoid dropped calls and busy lines. It’s also updated the technology to make sure anyone waiting on a callback gets one.

After called flooded the phone lines and emails for the WINK newsroom, the County and on social media a spokeswoman for the county released the following statement to address concerns:

“The call line opened at noon as scheduled. None of the 1,800 appointments was filled prior to noon.

“The state vendor reports it received about 35,000 calls per second once the reservation line opened at noon today. The vendor, Tidal Basin, had about 1,000 staff answering calls.

“Some callers timed out while in the process of responding to the automated prompts minutes into the reservation window. The vendor says that as this occurred, the system was quickly closed to manage appointment capacity.

“While some callers reported being immediately disconnected mid-stream while in the automated greeting system, other callers received a recording saying appointments were full.

“The vendor’s Help Line is available at 888-499-0851. The Help Line is not able to schedule appointments.

“Immediately following the reservation line closure, the Help Line experienced a brief period of overwhelming call volume. The vendor bolstered staffing, and calls continued to be answered at desired service level with wait times averaging 10 minutes or less.”

Strangers in the community are worried their lives are on the line, as they wait for their chance to get the vaccine. It’s bringing them together, as people are finding new friendship amid shared frustrations.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said Monday that Lee is exploring the idea of implementing an online system for future vaccine rollouts.

“They rolled out a scheduling system in Miami-Dade and also in Hollywood, I think, and also in Orlando,” Desjarlais said. “And they’ve done better. We talk with them every day. We continue to pass along the glitches to them every day and they continue to work on them. So my level of confidence grows, but we’ll just have to see how it seems.”

The toll-free reservation number has changed and is 1-866-200-3468, but you will receive a message that all vaccines have been allocated until the next reservation window opens.

FDOH-Lee is waiting for information about the next vaccine shipment, and announcements regarding the reopening of the reservation line will be forthcoming.

By close of business Friday, FDOH and Lee County will have administered 9,000 vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers and 65-plus seniors this week alone.

The state vendor also now has a new Help Line available at 1-888-499-0851. The Help Line is not able to schedule appointments.

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