Senior citizens in Lee County determined to wait in line for COVID-19 vaccine

We witnessed a kindness among those who were waiting in line overnight together for the coronavirus vaccine at Lakes Regional Library in south Fort Myers. One couple was even handing out cups of coffee to others.

The first few in line told us no there knew each other, but they have certainly been together over the past 10 months during an isolating experience.

In the line for vaccines, seniors 65 and over were together with hope, folding chairs, snacks and quiet conversations. Many people had similar stories to share.

“A friend of mine that died from the virus, he was from where I came from in Nevada,” Kit Kerkesner said. “That was a horrible way to learn. Oh, yeah, this virus is for real.”

For Kerkesner, the chance to get the vaccine felt unreal.

“I think that’s fantastic,” Kerkesener said. “Governor DeSantis, when he did the 65 and over thing, he’s got my vote for life. I don’t know what more to tell you.”

Mark Langemo and Kerkesner are now lifelong friends. It’s a bond built long before they stepped in line.

“I can’t imagine this Christmas the number of young people that didn’t have a grandmother or a grandfather or a parent at Christmas time,” Langemo said. “And for our precious eight grandkids, I didn’t want to be one of them.”

Langemo waited in line to make sure the love of his life won’t be “one of them” either.

“I’ve been concerned about her every day,” Langemo said. “You still have to go to the grocery store and do the occasional things you have to do to live life. But I’ve been incredibly concerned about her, and this is a major step in terms of being able to protect her.”

At Cultural Park in Cape Coral, it was a similar story. We counted about seventy people out here waiting for the 9 a.m. start of vaccinations.

In Aaron Stern’s 80 years, he says he’s never camped out for anything, not concert tickets, not a Black Friday sale. But for a dose of hope, he got up early Tuesday morning to see if he’d be the first in Cape Coral to get a shot.

“For this, this is different. This is worth it,” Stern said. “The opportunity to feel safe again and to be able to go out is wonderful.”

It’s an opportunity dozens of people refused to miss.

“I haven’t seen my children in about a year and some a little longer and whatever it takes,”” Judy Morris said.

In south Fort Myers, protection is what Frank Mihalik hopes he can do for his 81-year-old sister.

“She can’t stay overnight, obviously,” Frank Mihalik said. “So I’m willing stay overnight for her.”

Personally, Mihalik wants to feel safer and wants to be able to feel confident when he’s out in public.

“Oh, God because I’m scared, that’s why, and I wanna be free,” Mihalik said.

For Gail and James Krauss, the vaccine will free the from months of fear.

“I knew that I was going to die, basically,” James said. “Just accept it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

James beat lymphoma. There was no way he would give up a chance at normal life now.

Life. Life. Go out more. Life. I just mean knowing now that we have a chance at life. I mean I’m 75 she’s 74. We’d like to have a few more years,” James said.

No one we met in line would give up, so they were determined to wait.

“Just happy. Happy to be here. Happy to get the shot,” Kerkesner said.

“It’s precious for us to be able to be here to be able to do this,” Langemo said.

It’s tough to social distance when the lines pile up. The county told us they’re working to get social distancing signs up and better manage the lines.

The county says it’s also working on an online reservation system, but it’s taking time because they want to ensure the site won’t crash.

The county also asks that, if you don’t plan to be in Lee County to get your second dose, please don’t get the first one.

Changes in procedures can come weekly.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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