Lines vs appointments for SWFL COVID-19 vaccinations

Reporter: Nicole Lauren Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The counties of Southwest Florida have used different plans for their vaccine rollouts. So far, Lee County has instituted a first come, first served setup, Charlotte County an appointment-based system.

Charlotte’s website had issues with crashing, while Lee’s lack of appointments led to long lines and overnight arrivals. The majority of people spoken to by WINK News seem to prefer the appointments.

The large crowds seen at Lee County vaccination sites deterred many people. In Bonita Springs, the mood went from concerned to frustrated; there was pushing and shoving that forced Lee County Sheriff’s deputies to intervene. A lot of those people stood in line overnight, for hours.

In Charlotte County, though, where everyone waited in their cars, people were seen clapping after they got vaccinated, praising the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County for its organization. The line was limited to a little over 200 people, those who didn’t have appointments were turned away.

“This was a piece of cake—whoever thought this up did a good job!” said Vito Verni of Estero, who went with his wife, Janet. “Very smooth, very efficient, very well thought out. And it was a breeze! It was a simple situation, you don’t even feel the vaccine going in.”

The FDOH-Charlotte says its approach was a no-brainer.

“We’re the second-oldest community in the state,” said Joseph Pepe, director of the FDOH-Charlotte. “That’s just not conducive for them to be standing in line, we learned that from when we were testing. So we wanted to make sure that we were protecting those folks.”

While Pepe says there are no plans to alter the county’s appointment system, he would like to be able to reach more people in a day.

“I would love to vaccinate more people,” Pepe said. “If we get more supply, we will definitely open up more channels so that we can vaccinate more people at one time.”

Collier County will follow in Charlotte’s footsteps, doing their vaccinations and tests by appointment only. All of Collier’s spots have been filled for next week.

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