Florida’s elderly struggle to find COVID-19 vaccines as nonresidents fly in for open shots

ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates has uncovered people from all over the country are booking flights to Florida to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

It’s jamming up Florida’s systems and keeping residents from getting vaccinated.

Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez has also experienced the issues personally. She has had trouble securing an appointment for her parents.

Read: Florida has nearly half the known U.S. cases of COVID-19 variant, CDC says

The problem forced Orange County’s registration site to be shut down on Thursday.

“It’s been very frustrating,” said Arleen Eutin.

Eutin and her family feel like they’re in a race against time, to keep COVID-19 away from their 92-year-old father and 85-year-old mother.

“Their friends, like it’s one-by-one-by-one, they’re all getting it, Eutin said. “And we’re petrified and some are passing away.”

Watch: Less than a third of Florida’s available COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, CDC says

She’s been trying for days to get them vaccine appointments in Palm Beach County where she lives.

Her sister, Alverez, has been trying in Orange County. Neither have been successful.

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Channel 9 has learned that part of the problem is that you don’t have to be a Florida resident to get vaccinated in some counties.

“You have people not only in Orange County, but all over the state of Florida, as well as all over the country that have gotten wind that this site is open to take vaccine appointments that is now trying to schedule everything all at once,” said CEO of CDR Health Tina Vidal-Duart.

Vidal-Duart runs CDR Health, the software company operating the Orange County Department of Health’s vaccine portal.

After booking about 3,000 to 4,000 appointments as soon as the site opened, they had to shut it down.

Watch: Florida company accused of steering vaccines to rich donors

“The internet service providers saw all this traffic coming into the system at one time that they thought that it was a fraudulent,” she said.

There was so much traffic from across the U.S., it looked like a cyberattack.

Eutin can’t believe people from outside of Florida are being able to get the vaccine in the state before her parents, and feels the state needs to require proof of residency.

If the state decides that only Florida residents can be vaccinated in Florida, the software company said it can make ZIP codes required to enter the site.