Lee County leaders acknowledge public frustration with vaccine availability

Posted at 6:02 AM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 09:09:37-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County leaders say they will stick with the county’s new phone reservation system to distribute the much-wanted Covid 19 vaccine.

The reservation approach came a week after the county tried a first-come-first-serve approach. It led to long lines and complaints people were getting too close to one another as they jockeyed to get the vaccines before they ran out.

“The criticism we have received over past several days has been very understandable,” said Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, who added the county heard from people “loud and clear” that they wanted to able to reserve a spot to get the vaccine.

The county hired a vendor to handle the phone reservations, which began to be accepted at noon on Monday.

The vendor said all 5,000 appointment slots were filled within minutes of the reservation line opening up to the public.

“We know we're going to get an overwhelming amount of calls,” said Daniel Craig, the company's CEO that handled the reservations.

“We did receive those, and I feel bad for those who didn't get in.”

“We were full within the first three minutes of us going live,” he added.

He estimated they received “tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of calls” to the company’s 100 live operators.

“We have 5000 appointments, and we have 200,000 people who wanted those appointments,” said Commissioner Hamman, who added, “the math just doesn't work.”

“You can't fit 200,000 people into 5000 appointments.”

“That's what happened today,” he added.

County leaders and vendors acknowledged the deep disappointment and frustration felt by those who called right at noon, only to be surprised they couldn’t land a spot on the appointment schedule.

“As soon as we had enough to schedule for this week, the call system went to a busy signal and a recording saying all schedule appointments are being booked,” said Craig.

The Florida Department of Health of Lee county says people who want the vaccine will soon get another chance, but there is no way to get on a waiting list.

“We are currently scheduled to receive more vaccines this week,” said Angela Smith of the Florida Department of Health.

“The last thing we want is a waiting list and no vaccines.”

“That sets unrealistic expectations for the public,” she added.

Commissioner Hamman warned future rounds of vaccinations are expected to take the same pattern as we’ve seen so far this week and last week.

“We will have more people than can actually have appointments available,” he said.

“This is the process we should expect to happen.”