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Several counties in Florida are using ticketing services like Eventbrite to schedule COVID-19 vaccines. The online platform has proven an easy way for governments to roll out appointments, local officials told The Verge. But residents are struggling to understand the system, which is inconsistent across the state.
Ignoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that initial vaccine supplies be allocated primarily to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month announced a distribution plan that also includes individuals 65 and older (suggested in the CDC’s third tier of immunizations). DeSantis also failed to implement a statewide distribution system, charging local health departments with creating their own schemes, The Verge said. But when phone lines didn’t work, departments were forced to take more creative measures—like Eventbrite.
“I said that this is the way I think we should go,” Jesi Ray, a social media, marketing, and communications specialist for Brevard County told The Verge. “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.”
Every slot in the county was booked within 24 hours of launch; Brevard County plans to use Eventbrite for its next vaccine allotment, alongside working phone lines. There are some concerns, however, with such digital systems—particularly for older residents who are unfamiliar with online ticketing platforms, or simply don’t have access to a computer.
“My 77-year-old father lives in one of the Florida counties where vaccines are first-come, first-serve through Eventbrite,” Khalid El Khatib wrote on Twitter. “He’s not technophile, so I’m out here like a dad trying to get his kid a ticket to a One Direction concert except, you know, life or death stuff.”
“There’s SO MUCH that is wrong with this,” Shamus Khan added in a Twitter thread. “Including the fact that some of the most at-risk people don’t have access to computers or the internet. So they are basically totally f***ed with this process. Which doesn’t just put them at risk, it puts all of us at greater risk.”
Brevard County officials understand the issues, but are determined to distribute the vaccine by whatever means possible. “We know that there are people who can’t get appointments,” Ray said. “But we needed to get shots in arms, and get people appointments as soon as possible.”
Many local organizations have used the self-service ticketing platform “to efficiently manage efforts that aid in addressing COVID-19,” a company spokesperson told PCMag in an emailed statement. That includes everything from coordinating distribution of food donations to virtual educational events. “We are actively exploring how our platform can best support the effort to increase access to vaccines,” the firm said, encouraging folks to verify any COVID-related event with their local health service.
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