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Online vaccine booking system has many seniors frustrated. Is there a better way?

"Not only do you have to be over 65, you have to also be able to navigate this crazy website,” Fultz said.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — COVID-19 vaccines are a hot commodity right now. They are in limited supply, but that's not the only problem. You have to be fast enough to snag an appointment.

"It was really just luck of the refresh of the page,” said Sara Fultz.

And if you're not tech-savvy, you may have some trouble. The booking system is all online for both Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

"Not only do you have to be over 65, you have to also be able to navigate this crazy website,” Fultz said.

Sara Fultz is a travel nurse. She already got her vaccine, but she helped her parents, who are over the age of 65, book their appointment at the Sarasota location.

"They are good with computers, but I was a little faster, so I stepped in,” Fultz said. “I really wanted them to get it."

Fultz admits even she was having a hard time with the DOH Sarasota website.

"It felt like it was in a constant circle, you know, you click on the event and it says go here and then you click on there and it takes you right back to the beginning of Sarasota DOH,” Fultz said. “It was really kind of a guessing game of what to click and it was luck of the draw that we hit refresh at a certain time, and they were available.

The way she describes it is stressful.

"To think of someone who is not around technology as much as we are, they would never be able to figure it out,” Fultz said. “It was a little hectic."

"I'm so thankful that it's here, but I just wish there was maybe a little bit of a better system,” Fultz said.

"We understand completely that we have a large number of older folks, seniors in the community that may not be computer literate, so we want to make sure they have the same opportunity,” Steve Huard with DOH Sarasota said. “But again, we are doing this in a rapid manner and just need people to be patient with us while we get it out."

Right now, Manatee County allows you to call their DOH to have them book an appointment on your behalf if you can't do it online. In Sarasota that's not an option, but they hope it will be soon.

“We understand it’s not the best system. We are trying to make it as smooth as possible,” said DOH Sarasota’s Health Officer Chuck Henry. “The Eventbrite system is the system we are using in the interim. We anticipate the state putting in place a statewide registration system in the next few weeks.”

Henry says there’s no timeline on when we’ll see this new system. 

"As the new system comes online I understand it will have the ability for call in and registration through the phone so that will be a huge improvement for us so we are excited for that to come online as soon as it does," Henry said.

He says they’re just waiting on the state.

“We apologize for that,” Henry said. “We know the system is going to get better and we just ask for our residents to continue to have patience as more and more vaccine moves into the community.”

In the meantime, the Eventbrite website is how bookings for a COVID-19 vaccine will be managed. But Huard says they are working on some improvements.

“We are going to be updating the website so that people aren’t just having to hover on the page and hope that they are going to see something,” Huard said. “We are going to work on getting the website updated so that people understand that we will have more information for them on Sunday at 3 o’clock.”

If you have access to a computer and want to book an appointment in Sarasota, you can either go to the DOH Sarasota website or Sarasota County Government website. The easiest option is by far the Government page.

When timeslots come available all you have to do is click the big blue box that says "Vaccine Registration" and it will take you right to the Eventbrite site.

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