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Lee County manager responds to concerns, frustration with vaccine rollout

Those in the general public who are supposed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are not happy with what has been at times confusion over the rollout for many in Lee County.

People are upset and criticizing how Lee County is handling the vaccine distribution due to long lines and disorganization.

We spoke to city leaders in Lee County Wednesday where vaccinations are happening, and they shared their suggestions for the county. County Manager Roger Desarlais was present to receive and respond to questions.

You can watch the full conference with the Lee County manager here or below:

A big suggestion from city leaders that members of the public have also mentioned: Make vaccinations organized with some sort of appointment process to avoid the chaos of the long lines and people sleeping outside.

The county said it’s working on it.

“Could it be more efficient? You betcha,” County Manager Roger Desjarlais said. “We’re the first to admit that.”

So why not make it by appointment? Every county surrounding Lee, whether it’s bigger or smaller, has a system in place.

“The appointment systems that are being used, none of them are good. They just aren’t,” Desjarlais said.

Desjarlais said the County should have a website running in a week that will not crash. But late Wednesday afternoon, the County said the vaccines set for next week will still be a first-come, first-serve basis.

More long lines can be expected.

“It’s a personal choice,” Desjarlais said.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said county mayors are meeting daily and offering up suggestions to Lee County, starting with an appointment process.

“We need to get the online registration program,” Anderson said. “Looking at… are there ways to increase the number of hands that are able to give the vaccinations.”

Desjarlais said that is happening. He said emergency medical services are helping administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“Addressing the needs of people who have ADA issues, transportation issues,” Anderson said.

“The final total solution is to get these vaccines in the hands of private physicians, so that they can administer them at their offices,” Desarlais said. “That’s when the masses are going to get vaccinated.”

Both Desjarlais and Anderson said it will get better.

“Remember when they first started doing the testing at CenturyLink? It was a mess,” Anderson said.

“I’m actually proud of the way it’s gone,” Desarlais said. “Now, some people don’t want to hear that, but let’s remember, and let’s understand how emotional this event is.”

Desjarlais said there will be a system in place for people to get their second round, which is required within 28 days of getting the first vaccination. He also said the County will not turn anyone away, even if you’re from out of the United States because it is a federal program.

“This is a federal program. These vaccines are provided by the federal government and no cost to the state, no cost to the county … no cost to the recipients,” Desarlais explained. “We are prohibited from turning anyone away.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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