‘Train wreck’: Florida using Eventbrite for COVID-19 vaccine appointments

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The hottest online ticket so far this year is for the COVID-19 vaccine.

To distribute the new vaccine, Florida’s government has tapped ticket-selling platform Eventbrite to collaborate. Officials say the self-service ticketing platform was the most efficient way to get shots into arms in a pandemic pinch. 

“I said that this is the way I think we should go,” Jesi Ray, who works in the communications office of Brevard County, told the Verge of advising the county switch to Eventbrite following the initial failure of a phone line to make vaccine appointments. (It crashed due to the volume of calls.) “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 [Florida’s] Department of Health solve this issue right now.” 

Eventbrite.com doesn’t explicitly list vaccination rollout in its list of the “live experiences” it offers, which include music festivals, conferences, community rallies, fund-raisers and gaming competitions.

‘I’m just flabbergasted and beside myself at how unorganized everything is.’

The state’s move to partner with the company has left some residents unimpressed.

“I’m just flabbergasted and beside myself at how unorganized everything is,” 67-year-old Anthony Isch of Largo told the Tampa Bay Times. “How can all the websites be down and the phone lines be down? How can everything be down? It’s a train wreck.”

Every vaccination slot in Brevard was taken within 24 hours of the Eventbrite launch. 

The Florida counties of Collier, Manatee, Monroe, Volusia, Pasco, Sarasota and Seminole are also using Eventbrite to vaccinate the initial wave of recipients, Vice reported. Statewide, you must be 65 or older, living or working in a long-term care facility, be a health-care worker or be particularly vulnerable to COVID to be eligible for the vaccine.

An Eventbrite registration ticket, valid identification and a completed Department of Health vaccine consent form are all that’s required upon arrival at appointments — sparking fears that scalpers will book and sell slots, as they’re known to do with countless other, less future-of-humanity-impacting ticketed happenings. Already, there have been cases of residents being scammed out of money by a fake Eventbrite vaccine account. The Eventbrite-dependent system is also problematic as many of the communities most vulnerable to the coronavirus are known to disproportionately lack internet access. 

The elderly are also reportedly struggling to understand how to sign up for online vaccine slots.

“I just made an online appointment for an 87 year old Tallahassee man and his wife bc they are ‘not computer people,’” tweeted USA Today reporter Jim Rosica. “They called the newspaper bc, he said, ‘I didn’t know what else to do, I called everybody. You’re the first to call back.’”

In Oklahoma, where counties have been left to determine their own vaccine rollout plans, one is using a free page on the platform SignUpGenius.com, “which has no verification or data security,” tweeted health-care advocate Kendall Brown. “I’d ask why Oklahoma’s Secretary of Digital Transformation & Technology didn’t point out how problematic this is, but @GovStitt appointed someone to the position with no digital background & he’s busy getting indicted for fraud, so….fun!” Brown added. 

Ray, the Brevard communications specialist, said authorities are aware the ticketing platforms are not ideal, but insisted they are the best option available. 

“We know that there are people who can’t get appointments,” she told the Verge. “But we needed to get shots in arms, and get people appointments as soon as possible.” 

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