In the absence of a statewide distribution system, several counties in Florida are turning to the event ticketing website Eventbrite to schedule vaccinations.
Health departments in Brevard, Collier, Flagler and Sarasota Counties, among others, have vaccination registration events listed on the site, which is typically used for events like concerts, reunions and book release parties.
Officials told The Verge that the platform was the most efficient way to jump-start the vaccine rollout process after confusing and patchy direction from the state.
“This is the only option we have right now; this is the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way that we can think of to help the department of health solve this issue right now,” said a Brevard County spokesperson.
WHY IT MATTERS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced late last month that all adults older than 65 would be eligible for the vaccine, along with healthcare personnel and long-term care facility staff and residents.
DeSantis rebuffed reporters’ questions about the snags on Monday, saying that the state had distributed vaccines to hospitals and “the hospitals said, ‘first come, first serve.'”
“They didn’t use a registration system, there wasn’t anything that was done, and there’s a lot of demand for it,” said DeSantis.
In response to the decentralized effort, some counties are relying on phone lines, while others are turning to platforms like Eventbrite. However, experts caution that the strategy may deepen the digital divide for those without access to broadband. Others point to the potential for scalping or even politically motivated buy-ups of available slots.
Scams are already popping up, with Pasco and Pinellas county health officials warning residents on Monday about events that charged people to register for the vaccine.
“You should NOT be charged to register. Registration is FREE,” the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County posted on Twitter.
THE LARGER TREND
Health departments are facing a variety of obstacles in the vaccine rollout process, with logistical challenges and fragmented messaging contributing to existing hurdles around cybersecurity and outreach.
Still, it seems clear that the patchwork approach to vaccine management is leading to an accordingly inconsistent uptake among would-be recipients.
ON THE RECORD
“The outgoing and incoming administrations must strengthen federal leadership to ensure that adequate funding, including funding recently appropriated by Congress, immediately reaches state and local health departments and partners,” said a joint statement from Infectious Diseases Society of America President Dr. Barbara D. Alexander and HIV Medicine Association Chair Dr. Rajesh T. Gandhi on Tuesday.
“This is necessary to support successful vaccine administration strategies, including expanding staffing for planning and implementation, and working with healthcare providers, healthcare systems and workplaces to operate high-volume sites and ensure timely access to vaccines by eligible populations,” they said.