Estero, Florida – Seniors spent a cold night outside in a queue spanning blocks while they waited to get to a park and recreation center where COVID-19 vaccines were introduced on a first come, first served basis.
Front in the line were Mark and Mary Ravis from nearby Cape Coral. They arrived around 7 pm on a Sunday, Two hours after the announcement of the vaccination clinic By the Lee County Health Department.
“I really need this vaccine,” said Mary Raviz. She and her husband, 69 and 72, respectively, suffer from underlying health conditions. “We thought it would fill up quickly.”
Saturday, Governor Ron Desantes Issue an executive order It ignored the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the priority of the COVID-19 vaccine and allowed people age 65 or older to jump ahead of the essential workers, Even as many Florida health care workers wait for the shot.
“We’re not going to put healthy young workers on old people,” said DeSantis, whose state has seen more than 21,000 deaths from the virus.
The Ravises were among the lucky ones in a southwestern Florida village. By noon – two hours before the scheduled start of vaccinations – the provincial health department tweeted that the site had reached its capacity. Only those who are already in line can be accommodated.
On Tuesday, the lines at the three first-come-first-serve vaccination sites in the county reached full capacity by 7 a.m. The mayor’s office had to send a traffic alert to the sites because of the congestion.
Similar scenes of waiting, confusion and frustration surfaced across the state on Monday, as medical and county systems scrambled to create distribution systems for groups that had not expected to be vaccinated for at least a week or two.
“If you’re opening up for everyone in Florida aged 65 or over, you better have a plan,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.
This was not necessarily the case in Sunshine State, where rolling out a messy coronavirus vaccine for people 65 and older may be a lesson for the rest of the country, as a decentralized county-based public health system adapts to overwhelming demand.
Florida’s latest vaccination data showed 122,881 people had received the first dose of the two-part vaccine as of Monday morning; Johns Hopkins University data showed Florida had 546,400 doses as of December 16.
Glenn Novak, director of the Center for Health Communication and Risk at the University of Georgia and former director of communications for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Program, said vaccinating the general population involves much more than most people imagine.
“We know thereThere are widespread ideas about how to do this, “he said,” but as the vaccine is distributed deeper and deeper into the system, it gets more complex. ” “
This complexity led to crowded signals and hours of reconnecting in Miami, as people tried to arrive to schedule vaccination appointments in hospitals in the face of the sometimes conflicting information.
At Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, the website read, “At this time, the Pfizer-Bio Tech COVID-19 vaccine is not available to the community.” The keypad told callers that the vaccine had not been distributed.
However, callers on the hospital’s COVID-19 line who can arrive until Monday have been allowed to book vaccination appointments for people 65 years of age or older until midday. Then announced the registration of vaccination dates no longer taken. There was no call to the hospital’s media relations department on Monday.
Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami began offering vaccinations to seniors last week, although getting to the appointment office has proved difficult for many. On Monday, multiple attempts by USA TODAY resulted in busy signals. When the line was answered, the staff said the vaccine is only available to medical center patients.
CEO Stephen Sonnenrich made it clear that this is not the case. The medical center offers the vaccine to anyone 75 years of age or older and will lower the age limit to 65 when demand drops. He admitted that the initial launch was “work in progress”.
“What happened was that the vaccine was not there one day, and then suddenly, it was here,” Sonnenrich said, adding that the system vaccinated its doctors and many medical personnel as desired, then opened it to others.
The hospital hired additional staff to answer phones and deal with the surge in activity. Sonnenrich said that although Mount Sinai has always provided vaccinations, “no one has a vaccination department.”
In counties where public health departments have taken the lead in distributing the vaccine to the public, the process has been bumpy at best.
In Seminole County, the Department of Health started handing shots of people age 65 and over at a mall on Monday. System of vaccination dates Crashed again and again Throughout the day, then immediately filled up until January 9th. Boycott Request patience It worked through Issues.
Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory University Vaccine Center and former director of the US Immunization Program, said the county level is where these efforts need to be organized. He said: “It is the states and provinces that know where to send the vaccine and what regulations must be put in place.”
They need money and time, said Nowak, a former CDC immunization official. “This is one of the reasons you see that many state and county health departments are saying how important it is for them to have additional resources,” he said. “Complexity will only increase.”
Coronavirus Relief and Spending Package President Donald Trump signed Sunday includes more than $ 8 billion for states to distribute the vaccine. The money should have come much earlier, and with federal government support for this effort, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, chirp In frustration Monday evening.
“There seems to be no investment or plan in the last mile,” Jha wrote. “There is no effort on the part of the Feds to help states launch a real vaccination infrastructure. Did the Fed not know that vaccines were coming? Shouldn’t the vaccination sites have been planned, etc., in October or November?”
The county of Orlando, Orlando, announced Monday it will begin vaccinating seniors Tuesday at the county conference center. At a press conference earlier in the day, county health official Dr Raul Pino warned that the process would not go smoothly.
“Are you expecting mistakes? Yes! We will face problems,” he said. “We will work on these issues when they come.”
They came almost immediately. A website was posted to take the appointments on Monday afternoon, but it quickly faltered County residents spent hours refreshing their screens to try to turn them on.
A retired teacher, Wayne Fraungillo, 69, spent an unproductive hour trying to make an appointment for himself and his 95-year-old father.
“This app is out of control with respect to any kind of consistency,” said Fraungello.
He said it was “appalling” to allow people of his age to get vaccinated before doctors and nurses, but decided that the vaccinations available in conference centers would not go to health care workers anyway.
They also didn’t go to Frongello and his father on Tuesday after the site crashed on him multiple times.
“Every time I start the process, I see the number of open appointments dwindling,” said an Orlando resident, just before midnight. “Now when I try to register all the fields are filled in. I have never reached the final booking page.”
Contact Elizabeth Weise at [email protected]
Contribution: Mike Stocka