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Florida Seniors Duped Into Paying For Covid Vaccination Appointments On Eventbrite

Topline

Scammers posing as local Florida health departments used the event management platform Eventbrite to charge money from unsuspecting seniors for fake coronavirus vaccination appointments, as multiple counties in the state used the platform to schedule inoculations despite concerns about its limitations.

Senior Citizens Line Up For Vaccinations Administered By Florida Department Of Health

Seniors and first responders wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Lakes Regional … [+] Library in Fort Myers, Florida.

Getty Images

Key Facts

Several health departments in Florida are using Eventbrite to schedule vaccinations for people over the age of 65 as mandated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, with some arguing that it is the easiest way to get the process up and running quickly during the initial phase, the Verge reported.

On Monday, fake Eventbrite pages for the health departments from Pasco and Pinellas counties were put up that charged money to sign up for the appointments, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Many seniors who were duped by the scammers showed up at vaccination locations in Pasco only to find out the page they used was fake.

Both the Pasco and Pinellas health departments have put out tweets notifying users of the fake registration pages, stating, “You should NOT be charged to register. Registration is FREE.”

Besides the scam, some have raised concerns that using online tools to schedule vaccinations excludes those who do not have access to the internet.

Eventbrite has not responded to a request for comment on if it has any verification process, however, a glance at the official Pasco health department appointment page shows that it doesn’t have any verification labels that distinguish it from fake ones.

Crucial Quote

Highlighting how confusing the online signup process has been for seniors USA Today’s Jim Rosica tweeted: “I just made an online appointment for an 87 year old  Tallahassee man and his wife bc they are ‘not computer people.’ They called the newspaper (because), he said, ‘I didn’t know what else to do, I called everybody. You’re the first to call back.’” Another reporter, Tallahassee Democrat’s Catherine Davidson-Hiers shared a post on Facebook highlighting that her voicemail inbox was full with requests from seniors seeking help in signing up online.

Key Background

The rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in Florida has been chaotic, with many blaming Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to allow all adults over the age of 65 to get vaccinated first, along with health care workers and long-term care facility residents. This broke with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to prioritize essential workers. DeSantis has also left the actual logistics of distributing those vaccines to counties and local health departments, refusing to let the state get involved in the process. The governor told CNN on Monday that local departments were “much more competent to be able to deliver health care services than a state government could ever be.” However, the lack of a statewide distribution plan and millions of eligible recipients has forced counties to turn to platforms like Eventbrite to get people signed up as quickly as possible.

Big Number

4,836,469. That’s the total number of first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that have been administered across the U.S. as of Monday according to CDC’s official tracker. The nationwide number is less than a fourth of the 20 million vaccinations the Trump administration planned to administer by the end of December.

Further Reading

Vaccine ‘train wreck’ leaves Tampa Bay seniors scrambling for shots (Tampa Bay Times)

Florida counties use Eventbrite to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments (The Verge)

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