First-Come, First-Served Vaccine Sites Strain FL County Dealing With DeSantis Order

Lee County
December 28, 2020 6:12 p.m.
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Hundreds of people lined up at a rec center in Florida Monday for a hasty experiment in vaccine distribution: The COVID-19 immunization, recently supplied by the state of Florida’s health department, would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

County officials had considered setting up an appointment system for the vaccines, they said, but demand was high and time was short.

Just last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) bucked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, saying that Florida’s second wave of vaccines would be available to anyone 65 and older rather than frontline essential workers. He’s one of a number of governors to institute their own distribution priorities. 

“We’re having to ride this bicycle as we build it,” said Roger Desjarlais (pictured above), the Lee County manager, at a press briefing Monday.

“It is unfortunate that there really is a finite number of vaccines available,” he added later. “And it’s unfortunate that we didn’t have three weeks to plan this event.” 

The county announced Monday’s vaccination site on Sunday, and almost immediately, according to local outlets, people began lining up to wait overnight. 

Ultimately, 600 people were vaccinated Monday, higher than initial estimates of 300 or 400 shots. There are additional sites scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday

The last man to receive a shot Monday, Larry Ellis, told local station WINK that his wife didn’t make the cut. She gave him the last ticket available because “I’ve got some more health issues than she does,” he said.

At the press briefing Monday, Desjarlais described an elderly couple who he said had camped overnight in lawn chairs, wrapped in blankets, waiting for the vaccine.

“Some people feel pretty desperate about the whole thing,” he said.

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