Miami – Government of Florida. Ron DeSantis begged for patience from eager seniors awaiting their turn to be concerned against COVID-19, as confusion and frustration arose over the availability of a life-saving vaccine among some of the state’s most vulnerable people.
At vaccination sites across the state, seniors formed long lines – some camping out overnight with lawn chairs and blankets – hoping to gain immunity to fight the virus. A southwest Florida County supply of vaccines was already responsible for the day before the sun rose on Wednesday morning, forcing authorities to let someone else down.
Senior people in other parts of the state were frustrated with busy phone lines and websites that would no longer issue new vaccination appointments.
DeSantis has prioritized Floridians over 65 to be next in line for the state’s stock of vaccines, now that most health care workers and other first responders are protected from the virus that has infected more than 1.2 million Floridians.
On Wednesday, health officials reported 13,871 new cases and 139 new deaths, with the death toll rising to 21,857.
The governor said on Wednesday that more than 82% of people who have died of the disease, over the age of 65, underline the urgency to get old Floridians vaccinated.
The supply of the COVID-19 vaccine is still limited. We do not currently have enough vaccines for all of the more than 4 million seniors in the state of Florida, ”the governor said during a news conference in Delray Beach. “We are going to get there but it will not happen overnight. So please be patient. “
The two available vaccines, county health departments and hospitals in the state, are scrambling to vaccinate seniors amid uncertainty over how quickly they can get more doses.
Lynn Humphrey, a college professor whose 81-year-old mother lives with him in a high-rise apartment in Miami, said she received about 80 calls over the phone to Miami Beach Hospital to talk to elderly people last week Started vaccinating. With limited doses of vaccines.
“It reminded me of the 80s, where you had to call a radio station to be the 10th caller to get a concert ticket,” Humphrey said. “When I finally got it, I cried on the phone with the woman.”
On Wednesday morning, health officials in Lee County, home of Fort Myers, announced that all three vaccination sites had reached capacity in their third day of providing injections to residents 65 and older. People lined up outside a library, recreation center and a theater to snatch one of the few hundred doses available after health officials, because no appointment was necessary because they would be administered on a first-come, first-served basis .
The Orlando Sentinel reported that state health officials in Orange County closed their online portal on Tuesday after creating 30,000 appointments in about 24 hours. And the Broward Health Hospital Network said it would stop vaccinating appointments the same day they started “due to the huge demand from the community”.
Abdullah Benkhatar, 90, was in front of the line at an entertainment center in Fort Myers on Tuesday morning.
“We have been at home for about 10 months. This is really important for me, for my health, and to be able to do the things that I like to do and want to come back to normally, ”he told WZVN-TV.
As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health said it had given doses to about 175,465 people in the state, most of them health care workers, emergency first responders and residents of supportive care facilities.
Some seniors began receiving shots on Monday in the first eight counties, which received their vaccine allotments last week. The other 59 counties in the state are expected to start receiving part of the vaccines soon.
In Miami, Jackson Health System began vaccinating people who are 65 and older and receiving care in the network. Music producer Emilio Estefan, 67, and 69-year-old Miami Dolphins senior vice president Nat Moore received their first dose of the vaccine on Wednesday in front of reporters at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Jackson Health said it would launch an online platform next week to get residents to book an appointment to get a shot.
Counties and hospitals have adopted various methods of how they manage the vaccine, prompting confusion, frustration, and lines.
“They are going to work through the issues, as they are doing,” the governor said. “If you are 65 years old, you are going to reach it. This may not happen for everyone today, may not happen next week. But for the next several weeks, as long as we keep getting supplies, you are going to get this opportunity.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she wrote to Deventis recommending that she mobilize the Florida National Guard to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, arguing the rollout is too slow.
The letter states that despite receiving 1,218,300 vaccine doses in the state, only 15% of them have been administered. “The lack of preparation and progress to produce these important, life-saving vaccines is unforgivable.”
Local 10 news reporters Madeleine Wright, Amy Vitry and Saira Anvar contributed to this report.
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