FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Less than 24 hours after announcing that they would begin COVID-19 vaccinations of people 65 and older, an overwhelming demand has forced Broward Health to stop scheduling new appointments.

Broward Health said on Wednesday they had reached capacity through February 2021.

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“Unfortunately we will not be able to provide any new appointments because of capacity issues,” said Dr. Aldo Cavo. “Since yesterday we received over 100,000 calls, 30,000 emails for request for COVID-19 vaccinations at this particular site.”

Broward Health Medical Center began vaccinating seniors 65 and older on Wednesday. But the demand was so great for an appointment, the phone system crashed Tuesday. The hospital even turned away people who tried to show up in-person.

One of the first to be vaccinated, Don Kitten said it didn’t hurt a bit, he was thrilled to get a coveted spot.

“I felt like I won the lottery. I can’t believe that I’ve been vaccinated. I thought i was going to have to wait months,” he said.

Kitten said it took lots of patience to get through to make the appointment. The phone lines were jammed.

“I called and I think I probably got hung up probably about 10 times, then got through and was put on hold and I think I waited 35 minutes,” he said.

Dr. Cavo said they’re working with the state and the county health department, trying to expand capacity.

“We hear you and we want to be able to give you the vaccine. You’ll have to have a little patience. We can’t do it alone, we will be in collaboration with other entities to make this happen,” he said.

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“The public is encouraged to follow communications from their local Departments of Health as additional state-run vaccination sites are expected to become available in January,” Broward Health said in a statement.

Broward Mayor Steve Geller spoke with Dr. Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward, about the additional sites.

Geller told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “Doctor Thaqi indicated to me they are going to have hopefully by next week or in the next 10 days 10 drive-through PODS located throughout the county to provide the vaccination. The question about whether there will be enough vaccines will have to be answered through the state and federal government.”

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When Broward Health resumes scheduling appointments, those wanting to get vaccinated must pre-register, no walk-ups will be accepted. Applicants will have to call Broward Health’s Nurse Connect line at (954) 759-7500 to be screened and scheduled.

People wanting vaccinations must meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • People ages 65 and over
  • Office staff of Broward Health’s credentialed physicians
  • EMS
  • Non-credentialed community healthcare providers who do not have access to the vaccine, as well as their office staff

The vaccine is also available to all Broward Health employees and credentialed medical staff at Broward Health’s hospitals.

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High demand for the vaccine isn’t limited to Southeast Florida. In Lee County, all three vaccination sites reached capacity by 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday. People 65 and older started lining up as early as Tuesday night for vaccinations to be given starting at 9 a.m. the following morning.

CBSMiami.com Team