Pelican Bay residents awarded access to register for hundreds of vaccines

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Credit: WINK News.

As our senior population in Southwest Florida struggles through online process to secure coronavirus vaccine appointment opportunities, shots are making their way into the arms of affluent and exclusive community members. The most recent is a place where you don’t have to be over 65 to live.

North Collier County Fire Control & Recue District told us it chose the Pelican Bay community of North Naples for access to COVID-19 vaccines because of it has the largest amount of people over the age of 65 in the district.

North Collier County Fire hopes vaccinating hundreds at this community will free up appointments for others living elsewhere in Collier County.

”I have COPD,” said Louise Altamuro in North Naples. “My husband has heart issues.”

Like her friends in North Naples, Altamuro is on her iPad trying to get an appointment through Publix and Eventbrite but, so far, no shot.

“Here in Collier County, we don’t have access as a regular, working-class person to the vaccine,” Altamuro said.

But less than 7 miles away, in this resort-style living community, people do, starting Friday.

“Why are they doing hundreds and hundreds of people there, and the rest of us are just here?” Altamuro said.

Marilyn Potting says she got asked to volunteer for Pelican Bay’s vaccine distribution.

“They made it sound like it was just really an honor to be asked to do that even though you’re not getting the vaccine yourself,” Potting said. “Are they wealthy? A lot of them are. Across the street, there’s homes, a million dollars, but maybe we don’t have the clout they do.”

North Collier Fire has partnered with Florida Department of Health in Collier County for the rollout because it’s licensed to provide vaccines.

The governor has also come under fire for providing vaccines in some wealthier communities in the state. We checked donor records and didn’t find any red flags.

More than 7,000 people living in the Pelican Bay zip code are over the age of 65. Deputy Fire Chief Jorge Aguilera says they have 400 vaccines and picked the community because of logistics.

“They have an internal opportunity or internal system of communicating with their residents and being able to run a registration system that we don’t have,” Aguilera said.

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