COVID-19 vaccine demand surges as Orange County, Florida lower eligibility age

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Orange County Convention Center filled up within minutes on Monday morning on the first day that Floridians age 40 and up were able to sign up for vaccination.

Orange County officials said all 7,000 of the appointments that were made available Monday morning are booked.

READ: Orange County Convention Center to lower vaccine age to 40 beginning Monday: How to sign up

Nicole Harvey was one of the lucky ones who nabbed a spot.

“I had a feeling it was going to go very quickly so that’s when I went on my phone right away,” Harvey said.

Officials said the website reported that all appointments for this week were filled within 13 minutes after they opened at 9 a.m. They have not said when more appointments will be opened again.

The convention center is the first location in Florida to allow Floridians age 40 and up, regardless of their profession or medical status, to register for vaccination.

READ: Popular Texas gas station chain opens its first location in Central Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week he believes Mayor Jerry Demings doesn’t have the authority to lower the vaccination age, but so far he has not stepped in to counter the change.

During a news conference in Melbourne on Monday, DeSantis said the state’s focus is still on seniors and he believes Florida counties should follow suit.

“If you haven’t hit 70% or more of your seniors than what I would be doing is, ‘man how do I get more seniors?’” DeSantis said.

See a step-by-step guide of what to expect from your appointment at the convention center below:

The minimum eligibility age at all other vaccination sites across the state dropped to 50 years and up on Monday. That includes FEMA-run sites as well as retail pharmacies.

The FEMA-run site at Valencia College’s West Campus is providing first-doses of the vaccine Monday and Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. this week, and then switching to second-doses only for the remainder of the week.

READ: Coronavirus: AstraZeneca US trial finds vaccine 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19

There is also a FEMA-run satellite site open at South Orange Youth Sports Complex located at 11800 S. Orange Ave. in Orlando. That site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Tuesday.

By noon on Monday, emergency management officials said they’d already given 197 Pfizer shots compared Sunday when they did 350 total.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.