Solution coming for botched vaccine rollout, Lee County manager says

Thousands of people in the community are outraged over the botched COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but a solution may be coming.

Florida counties and at least one state lawmaker are pointing to failure at the top, so the state is responding to the criticism with a statewide system, according to Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais.

The state hasn’t released any information, but until then, Desjarlais’ focus is on helping everyone get the vaccine, he said, including those who called for an appointment last week, got into the queue, and are still waiting for a callback.

“Please tell your viewers to be patient,” he said. “I get the emails. Someone received a call they were in the shower and they missed it. Or they missed it for some other reason. We continue to cycle those emails back to the vendor, and those people will all eventually get a call.”

People we spoke to are still holding out patently for their turn to be vaccinated in Lee County.

Tony Larocco took one look at a COVID-19 vaccination line in December and said, “No way.”

“We’ve tried every, every opportunity that’s come up in Charlotte County, Lee County, Collier County, even Glades and Hendry,” Larocco said. “We tried them all.”

Larocco and Bonnie McDonough are still waiting for their first COVID-19 vaccine. They both want to see a better system in place.

“I don’t have to go through this every week,” Larocco said. “This high anxiety. I’m not getting it; my neighbors are getting it.”

“Are they going to call? What if I miss it? What if I don’t see it?” McDonough said.

Patricia Burke is one of the few lucky thousand who got her first shot after waiting for hours in line.

“I won’t go into panic mode for another week; then, I’ll be calling everyone,” Burke said.

Burke is glad to hear Lee County is getting an additional 4,500 vaccines, as she waits for her second and final dose.

“If I can see my grandkids, I would have waited two days in line,” Burke said.

Burke hopes the process becomes easier for people such as Larocco and McDonough.

“I don’t know what a better system looks like,” McDonough said.

“We’ll keep trying,” Larocco said. “I’m not going to count on a new system coming out.”

We reached out to Florida Department of Health asking for more details on the statewide registration, but we are still waiting to hear back.

We asked Lee County about people like McDonough who got in the queue and are still waiting for calls to schedule appointments. Lee County responded and said it’s still working through callbacks.

Desjarlais told WINK News that despite the hang-ups, Lee County will keep the phone system for vaccine reservations, and they’re working as fast as possible to create an online system, too.

Desjarlais ruled out a vaccine lottery.

“Going to a lottery system … if we have too many different ways to make an appointment, that’s almost as bad as having only one,” he said.

At the same time, the state is working on its own reservation system, he said. When that will go online is anyone’s guess. If you’re one of the lucky few who got the vaccine, stay by the phone – the calls for second doses are coming soon.

Most of all, Desjarlais wants everyone to know that it’s hard, but it’s going to get better.

“If I had been locked in my house for the last year … I’ve got four grandkids that live locally, my wife and I play a pretty big role in their lives … if I hadn’t been able to see them for the last year, I’d be pretty upset myself. This is such an emotional event worldwide that people are behaving like their normal selves. They’re upset. They are angry,” he said.

If you’re still waiting for a callback, Desjarlais suggests you call the United Way’s 211 information line.

RESOURCE: WINK News is working by the minute on a daily basis to bring our coverage areas in Southwest Florida the latest COVID-19 vaccine information from the counties you live in.

Visit our COVID-19 vaccine schedules and information for SWFL story for rolling vaccine updates.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Taylor Petras
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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