VENICE — Within about an hour of the Department of Health's new vaccination registration system going online, more than 50,000 people had signed up.
And the 50 call takers registering people by phone had 400 callers waiting to talk to them, county Director of Emergency Services Rich Collins said.
The first appointments, for a clinic Thursday at Twin Lakes Park, on Clark Road, were to go out later Wednesday, followed by notices for a clinic Friday at the same location.
The department has 3,300 doses to administer over the two days. But in a change to state policy, people who can't produce evidence they live in the county may be turned away.
The new system is a joint effort of the county and the Sarasota office of the state Department of Health to get away from the system initially used, which required vaccination-eligible people to try to call for an appointment each time a vaccine clinic was scheduled.
The new system, on the Everbridge platform the county and Venice use for emergency notifications, accepts registrations and notifies people, based on when they registered, when an appointment is available. Once registrations slow down, Collins said, it will also be able to tell them their place in line.
Registrants will be asked to confirm or decline the appointment offered. Those who decline will remain in the queue but after a third proposed appointment is declined, or not responded to, their name will go to the end of the line, Health Officer Chuck Henry said.
Appointments will be set in one-hour blocks, he said. People are asked to arrive no more than 15 minutes before their appointment to reduce crowding and traffic.
They should bring their registration form, appointment confirmation, identification and something, such as a power bill, to confirm they reside in the county.
It's part of a new directive from the state to counter "vaccine tourism," Henry said. Language about that will be added to the registration system once he's confirmed the requirement with the state, he said.
Henry said that notices for second shots for people vaccinated in late December could go out as early as the end of the week, depending on anticipated vaccine availability.
The location has yet to be determined.
It will be at least a few more weeks before any additional vaccination sites might be set up, he said. The department is still being notified week to week about the amount of vaccine being delivered, though he said he expects the supply to improve over the next couple of weeks.
He's also hopeful that Publix stores in the county will be able to begin vaccinations, as they have in Charlotte County. There's nothing official about that yet, however.
In total, more than 25,000 people in the county have been vaccinated, Collins said.