ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — From unfamiliar technology to being unable to get in touch with vaccination sites, some recipients of the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine said scheduling the second can be a challenge.

A few wondered if frustrations could be partly to blame for the reported tens of thousands of Floridians who are overdue for their follow-up doses.

What You Need To Know

  • FLDOH reports 44,470 Floridians overdue for second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to data through Jan. 18

  • Some wonder if scheduling frustrations partly to blame

  • Technology, communication issues among challenges some say they face

"It's because they don't know how, so they need help. We need help," said Virginia Sarver, 87.

Sarver got her first dose this weekend at one of AdventHealth's recently launched community COVID-19 vaccination sites.

“I went in, I didn’t have to wait at all, I was seated, and they just — lovely people. Everybody was so professional," said Sarver.

The trouble was in signing up for the second dose. A spokesperson said those appointments are scheduled by using a QR code. People are encouraged to remain at vaccination sites until they schedule that second appointment. Team members will schedule those appointments for people who don't have smart phones or are having difficulty signing up. Sarver said she appreciated the help offered to her at the site she visited.

"She didn’t have time to help me then. You know, people are waiting in line. She said, ‘You call me on Tuesday.’ She said, ‘We’re closed on Monday, but if you call me Tuesday, I’ll see if I can help you,’” Sarver said. 

Sarver said she tried it herself, but couldn't figure it out on her own. Her family ultimately helped her schedule that second appointment, but not before she also sought help at a T-Mobile store.

"We told them they're in the will," Sarver's husband, William Sarver, said of the T-Mobile employees.

Dr. Chris Wujick said he ran into problems of his own. Wujick is a dentist, and said he was eager to get the vaccine. He said he received his first dose at St. Joseph's Hospital about a week ago and was told he'd receive an e-mail with instructions on scheduling the second.

"Look through junk mail, nothing. And then I called finally...yesterday, and I left a message. Same thing -- you can't get through," Wujick said.

According to information from BayCare, health care workers not affiliated with the health care system but got their first dose from one of their sites will get an e-mail with the date and time of their second dose. A spokesperson said BayCare is in the process of scheduling second doses and asks for patience from those awaiting follow-up appointments.

Both Wujick and Sarver said their frustrations came to mind when they heard of the tens of thousands of Floridians overdue for their second doses.

"I could see me being that person, even though I want to do it more than anyone," Wujick said. "We're doing this for a reason, for a cause. We're trying to save people's lives, and it could be done differently."

The COVID-19 vaccine report from the Florida Dept. of Health released Tuesday showed that more than one million Floridians had received at least a first dose as of Monday. That same report showed more than 44,000 people were overdue for their second dose. 

“There’s psychological reasons, and sometimes there’s other barriers to getting the second dose. I think anybody who doesn’t get the second dose, I’d be concerned about because you’re not getting the full protection of the vaccine," said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor with the University of South Florida's College of Medicine.

Teng said data from both Pfizer and Moderna's clinical trials show that first doses offer some protection, but he said the second shots lead to a significant increase in antibodies aimed at neutralizing the virus. He said while people should try to stick to the schedule specified by the drug makers, those who received the first dose should try to schedule a second, even if it's late.

As for Wujick and Sarver, they said they'd like to see changes in how second doses are scheduled.

“I know they were trying to do their best, but somewhere along the line, somebody forgot that 65 and older doesn’t know how to work all these things," said Sarver.

Wujick said his parents received their first doses at Publix, and their follow-up was scheduled before they left the store. It's a system he said makes sense.

“When you’re there, schedule your second appointment, and then I think a lot more people will follow through," Wujick said.