NCH, Lee Health making COVID-19 vaccines available, supplies limited

Reporter: Taylor Smith Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination to be administered in New Jersey is prepared at University Hospital, in Newark, NJ, Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Kirsten Luce/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

UPDATE Thursday, Jan. 7, 12:30 p.m.: NCH says all appointment slots for the week have been booked. More will be made available when they receive more vaccines.

NCH reported that all 1,200 vaccine appointments were filled by 12:10 p.m.  The high influx in traffic to the NCH website at one time caused many in the community to experience service delays or go completely offline.

NCH Healthcare System and Lee Health both announced Wednesday they will start vaccinating those 65 years old and up. It’s welcomed news for those who have been trying to get appointments for days.

Those who meet the criteria can sign up online to be vaccinated at NCH starting Thursday. There are expected to be 1,200 spots available with NCH throughout the course of four days beginning Friday.

“I’m gonna get it the first place I can,” Ben Shinkle said.

Shinkle has been waiting like many to get his COVID-19 vaccine.

“I don’t know what’s happening, all these vaccines they say they have when so few are getting administered,” Shinkle said.

MORE: Vaccine schedules and resources for SWFL

Learning NCH will distribute the vaccine to those members of the public who are 65 and older gives many people more hope.

“I’m very happy that Collier County is on board to give vaccines,” Beth Mihok said. “My mom is gonna be on the waiting list.”

NCH says, when it gets another shipment of vaccines, it will be administering more of them to the public.

The signup link will be live at noon Thursday to schedule appointments for Friday and the following week.

“Get them out as fast as possible to as many people as possible,” Shinkle said.

NCH is aware that spots will go quickly.

“If you are unable to receive an appointment at this time, as soon as we get more vaccines, we will offer our community more opportunities to sign up in the future,” said Ilia Echevarria, associate chief nursing officer with NCH.

Lee Health says its supply of vaccinations will be for patients of Lee Physician Group offices, which have all been spoken for at this time. They will let the community know when there are more vaccines available.

“Starting today, we have a limited supply of vaccines available for patients at 18 Lee Physician Group primary care offices for qualifying LPG patients over the age of 65,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, the president and CEO of Lee Health.

In addition to those vaccines, Lee Health is also opening up vaccination clinics at its hospitals for auxiliary volunteers who fall within the criteria of the governor’s order.

“These volunteers are critical to providing a welcoming and healing environment for our patients,” Antonucci said.

People hope all of these efforts will speed up the vaccination process.

“They are a great company,” Mihok said. “I’m all for NCH as you see, so let’s go. Let’s get this done. Let’s get back to normal.”

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