| Fort Myers News-Press
Lee County officials say quickly rolling out COVID-19 vaccination plans led to some issues, but they are correcting them this week — notably with a reservation system and a new main inoculation site.
“Our department here in Lee County received 12,000 doses of the vaccine with the direction to start the process with our residents,” Angela Smith, administrator for the Florida Department of Health-Lee County, said at a media briefing Sunday. “Our intention to reach as many people as possible was good. … The process last week was not what it needed to be.”
Latest COVID update: State reports 303 new cases, no new deaths in Lee County
County and health officials developed a plan to provide an appointment system to distribute 5,000 more vaccine doses starting Tuesday.
Smith, Kevin Ruane, chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, and Lt. Fred Janke from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, laid out the coming week’s vaccine plans.
Ruane announced the activation, as of noon Monday, of a toll-free number — 833-618-2001 — that will accept 1,000 appointments. The appointments will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, and 2,000 each for appointments from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
The distribution point will be at a single site east of Interstate 75 off Daniels Parkway, the site of the old Southwest Florida International Airport terminal parking lot. Message boards will direct traffic to Paul J. Doherty Parkway.
The 5,000 doses will be earmarked for those 65 and older and front-end medical workers, Ruane said.
There will be more reservations once more vaccinations arrive, Smith said.
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Smith said of the original 12,000 vaccine doses sent to Lee County, 5,800 were distributed last week, and 6,140 by Sunday. The remaining 860 doses went to ancillary clinics, Smith said.
Smith said the first-come, first-served method initially used in Lee County did not account for the actual response.
“We can’t call it a success,” she said, adding that county and health officials listened to public concerns and developed the plans announced Sunday. “We came up with a much more effective plan.”
Ruane said the county has partnered with Tidal Basin, which specializes in emergency and preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation management, and funding, to handle the appointment calls and a Lee County official said the company involved has assured the county that it has enough bandwidth to handle as many calls as come in.
Those who can’t get through will have other options such as leaving a call-back number without losing their places in line.
Janke said the Sheriff’s Office will offer security and traffic control at the vaccine distribution point.
He suggested those who have appointments bring proper identification, water and arrive no earlier than 45 minutes before their appointments.
“Be patient and be prepared,” Janke said.
“There is no need to come early or wait overnight,” Ruane added.
Smith said that no one with an appointment and proper identification would be turned away. Those with appointments will be matched with a list provided by the vendor.
She also said that the procedure for the second dose of the two-dose Moderna vaccine has not been defined.
“It’s being held at the federal level,” she said.
A county official said recreational vehicles, campers or trailers will not be permitted on site. Service animals will be permitted in the vaccination area and it is ADA compliant. A shuttle will be available from the parking lot area to where shots will be administered, a county official said.
More information can be found at leegov.com/vaccine. People also can visit the Lee County Government Facebook page and other social media channels (leegov.com/socialmedia) or monitor Florida DOH’s Twitter account, @flhealthlee.
There is also a United Way line available for vaccine questions is staffed 24/7, dial 211 or 239-433-3900.
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