Back in December, officials with the Brevard County branch of the Florida Department of Health eagerly opened their phone lines, ready to accept the first appointments for their fledgling COVID-19 vaccination program. But demand quickly overwhelmed the system, effectively crashing it in less than 24 hours. The vaccination program was grounded before it ever took off. What were they to do? The county’s social media team had an idea: Build a vaccination drive on Eventbrite.

“We built it, tested it, got it approved by management, and we had it released — all of that in about three hours,” recounted Jesi Ray, one of the county’s social media and communications specialists. When batches of the vaccines are released by the state, Ray’s team opens slots for each available dose and spreads the word on social media, press releases, and a text-based emergency alert system run by the county. But those who are eligible need to act fast if they want to snag a vaccination appointment. “They’re usually gone within the first 10 minutes,” Ray said. 

Her team got the idea to use Eventbrite from officials in nearby Seminole County, which has also conducted its vaccination program with help from the event platform. But they aren’t the only counties using Eventbrite for vaccine appointments. Since January 1, healthcare departments in 36 states and 8 countries have set up vaccine appointments on the platform. Like Brevard County, many jurisdictions turned to Eventbrite when they found their phone systems flooded with a staggering volume of calls.

“We needed something quickly that is built to handle the traffic that it’s going to see,” Ray explained. Eventbrite fit the bill. At times, she said, there are as many as 120,000 people swarming Brevard County Emergency Management’s Eventbrite page to secure one of a mere 1,500 available slots. If event creators are confused about how to get started, Eventbrite has written a FAQ answering some of the most common questions about creating COVID-19 vaccination events, which covers everything from concerns about HIPAA compliance to embedding appointment registrations on a health department’s website. It’s also created a similar FAQ for hopeful vaccination event attendees.

There remains the issue of guiding less tech savvy registrants. Most people who are eligible to be vaccinated are over age 65 and often not as comfortable with technology. Some “don’t even have computers or smartphones,” Ray said. For these folks, navigating the Eventbrite platform can be a challenge, especially when time is of the essence. Ray encourages technology-literate family members to help their parents and grandparents navigate the Eventbrite site. She added that the state of Florida is also working on creating a dedicated phone line system, which she hopes will allow people to register for vaccination appointments over the telephone. But even when it’s up and running, Ray anticipates that Eventbrite will continue to be an integral part of her county’s vaccination efforts. 

“In the long run, I don’t think there is a way to prepare for a phone line receiving almost 100,000 phone calls in less than a minute,” she said. Online platforms like Eventbrite, Ray believes, are far better suited for that type of volume. The response from the community says it all.

“We had a lot of positive feedback the first few days where people were very grateful we had introduced Eventbrite in lieu of the phone lines not connecting,” she said. “Just a huge turn-around from people [being] very upset to several ‘thank you!’-type messages, emails, and comments on social media.”

“It’s quick and easy to set up and manage,” she continued. “Overall, it is a really, really great tool to use for this.”

For information on how to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment or time slot, click here. Healthcare departments and organizations looking to create appointments on Eventbrite, learn how to manage registrations here.

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