Florida's elderly population is going to great lengths to ensure they get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
According to the Associated Press, senior citizens have begun swarming distribution sites across the Sunshine State, where anyone over the age of 65 is eligible to receive the shot along with health care workers. However, Florida's vaccine rollout hasn't been exactly smooth. Lee County is administering the shots on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is allowing any Florida senior to receive the vaccine regardless of their residency.
This, of course, has resulted in chaos, as countless Floridians have formed long lines outside the distribution sites, where they endured hours-long waits and, in some cases, overnight campouts as temperatures dropped to the 40s. Aaron Stern, an 80-year-old Floridan, told WINK he camped out Tuesday to see if he would be the first person in Cape Coral to receive the vaccine.
"This is worth it," he said. "The opportunity to feel safe again and to be able to go out is wonderful."
Lee County has shared a press release that includes a list of vaccine sites and their operating hours. County officials confirmed residents do not have to pay a fee or schedule an appointment to receive the shot; however, they noted that each site has a limited supply of 300 doses.
Bruce Scott was among the senior citizens who arrived at a Ft. Myers distribution site a little after midnight Wednesday. He told CNN he had waited eight to nine hours to get the potentially life-saving vaccine.
"Although I'm grateful to get the vaccine, I feel that there's got to be a better way to distribute this," he said. "For people that really need it, elderly that might be disabled in some way, they can't endure this process, so there's got to be a better way to manage this."
Other Florida counties have taken a different approach and are offering appointments for vaccinations; however, the high demand has resulted in busy phone lines and website crashes, which has made it difficult for seniors to schedule their shots.
CNN reports Orange County Department of Health closed its online portal for appointments on Wednesday, after 30,000 appointments were scheduled within 24 hours.
Florida has reportedly received more than 767,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The state's governor, Ron DeSantis, has asked residents to be patient as they wait for the federal government to send more.
"The COVID-19 vaccine supply is still limited. We don’t have enough vaccine currently on hand for all 4 million-plus senior citizens in the state of Florida," DeSantis said during a news conference. "We’re going to get there but it’s not going to happen overnight. So please be patient."