On Jan. 4, a Walton County resident contacted the Herald – Breeze about experiencing problems getting through on the telephone to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. Jan. 4 was the reported date that members of the public seeking vaccination could begin calling to schedule appointments. The Herald made several attempts to call (850) 892-8392, the number posted for appointments, and received either a busy signal or were unable to complete the call.
On Jan. 5, the website of the Florida Department of Health in Walton County posted an update on the status of COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations in Walton County:
“We are experiencing intermittent telephone issues, please be patient as we address this. Due to the number of requests for vaccinations, we have exceeded the number of available vaccines. If you do not receive a call back by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, there are no available appointments. We do look forward to receiving additional doses very soon and we will advise you as soon as we do. Stay tuned to Walton County Emergency Management’s social media and our websites (Walton County Government and FDOH-Walton) for appointment availability.”
On the previous day (Jan. 4) a news release had been issued from the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis:
“Today, during a press conference at Orlando Health in Seminole County, Governor Ron DeSantis announced four new actions the state is undertaking as it enters the fourth week of a proactive approach to increase vaccinations, especially for Floridians 65 and older.
“Governor DeSantis said, “Florida is putting Seniors First and I’m pleased to announce four new actions that will continue our proactive approach to offering the vaccine to Floridians 65 and older, as well our continued efforts to vaccinate frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents. Partnerships with Florida hospitals remain critical to our efforts, but this alone is not enough to reach our vaccination goals.
“To that end, I am directing the Florida Division of Emergency Management to partner with the Florida Department of Health to identify additional sites to administer the vaccine and to be open 7 days per week, including the conversion of state-supported testing sites and partnerships with places of worship in underserved communities. I am also directing the Division to hire additional nurses to support these sites and accelerate vaccinations in Florida’s over 3,000 assisted living facilities. We will continue to build on these efforts in the coming weeks.”
The release also included the following:
“FOUR NEW ACTIONS TO CONTINUE FLORIDA’S PROACTIVE APPROACH TO VACCINATIONS
“1) Expanding access to vaccine with additional state-supported sites. Governor DeSantis has directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to work with the Florida Department of Health to identify state-run COVID-19 testing sites that can convert into vaccine sites. Additional information regarding the locations of these sites will be available in the coming days.
“2) Deploying the vaccine into underserved communities.
Governor DeSantis has directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to identify places of worship and other locations in underserved communities where the vaccine may be administered. Florida has already begun a pilot program in Escambia County, where over 500 seniors have received their vaccine and have been scheduled for their booster shot, which they will receive at the same location.
“3) Reinforcing vaccination efforts with additional staff.
“Governor DeSantis has directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to immediately hire 1,000 contract nurses to support vaccination efforts. These nurses will be deployed throughout the entire state to help run vaccination sites, including public sites run by the state or counties and private sites such as South Seminole Hospital. These nurses will supplement the many personnel already in the field, including 800 Florida National Guardsmen, who have been supporting the state’s response since the beginning of the pandemic.
“4) Continuing to prioritize long-term care facility residents.
“There is no time to waste to vaccinate Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Governor DeSantis is directing the Florida Division of Emergency Management to assume additional responsibilities regarding the administration of vaccines in Florida’s over 3,000 assisted living facilities, supplementing and accelerating the efforts being undertaken by CVS and Walgreens, pursuant to their agreement with the federal government.”