Hundreds Of Florida Seniors Camp Out Overnight To Get COVID Vaccine

by Madison Vanderberg
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Seniors camp out overnight at the chance at getting a COVID-19 vaccine in one Florida county

To say the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is going swimmingly would not be the most accurate statement. Not only is the U.S. well behind its projected 20 million doses by end of 2020 (to date, the U.S. has vaccinated a little over 2 million), new photos from Lee County in Florida show lines of people in their 70s and 80s camped out, overnight, in the cold, waiting for a chance at a “first come first serve” shot at getting the vaccine.

In other states, we’ve seen measured rollouts of vaccines to healthcare workers in the healthcare facilities where they work, but in Lee County, Florida, they wanted to start giving the vaccine to seniors — which is awesome — except they had no plan other than “show up,” which ended in hundreds of desperate seniors camping out on a street just to have the chance at maybe securing a vaccine.

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The Florida Department of Health in Lee County offered COVID vaccines all week and each day, seniors camped out overnight, hoping to be first in line. The demand was so strong on Wednesday morning, that the Department of Health announced that they “hit capacity” by 6:30 am because people started to get in line as early as Tuesday morning.

One 90-year-old man told ABC 7 that he got in line for the Wednesday morning shot at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “We’ve been at home for almost 10 months now. It’s really important to me, for my health, and to be able to do things I like to do and get back to normal.”

The health department also said although the vaccines are only for Lee County residents, they would not “turn away” someone who doesn’t live in the area, further adding to the chaos outside the vaccination centers.

ABC News reporter Rebecca Jarvis tweeted that a family friend in her ’80s attempted to get in line for the vaccine at 4:30 am on Tuesday but left when she saw the crowds, fearing she might actually catch COVID-19 while waiting to get the vaccine.

The cruel irony is that Florida’s attempt to protect our nation’s most vulnerable actually puts them in more danger, as they treat Florida’s retirees like teenagers waiting outside an Apple store for a new iPhone.

As of Wednesday, December 30, the Health Department has not announced any additional testing days or locations.

In a “Letters to the Editor” published on December 30, 2020 in Naples Daily News, one person wrote: “I see that Lee County, in its infinite wisdom, is distributing coronavirus vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone over 65, as long as they are healthy enough to stand in line for 10-plus hours.” Others wondered why the county didn’t assign people to appointment slots, like they’ve been doing for COVID testing over the last year.

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Hopefully other counties and jurisdictions can view Lee County’s rollout as a cautionary tale of how not to treat your community’s seniors.