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People camp overnight in Lee County for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 12:28 AM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 00:28:28-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Hundreds showed up at vaccination sites Tuesday morning in Lee County but got turned away as sites reached capacity by 7 a.m., two hours before sites opened.

Determined to get their COVID-19 vaccine dose, people set up camp Tuesday night outside the Cultural Park Theater in Cape Coral, one of the sites offering the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.

By 10 p.m., more than seventy people were in line.

"I thought if I can be at the head of the line, I don't have to worry about anything," said Aaron Stern.

Getting turned away is not a chance Aaron Stern was willing to take.

He was the first to arrive at the Cultural Park Theater Tuesday and the first in line prepared to wait nearly 24 hours for Wednesday's round of doses.

Stern says he arrived around 9:30 a.m.

"What happened was my son woke me up and said, Dad, we’re going now," said Stern.

Stern says he hadn't planned on arriving so early, but after seeing the long lines Monday and Tuesday, his son was determined to get him in line.

"He says uh-uh we’re going, I want this be guaranteed that you’re going to get it," said Stern.

Stern says in his 80-years of life; he's never camped for anything before, not concerts, and not black Friday sales.

"But, for this, I feel like it's well worth it, I mean to have the knowledge of feeling safe when it comes to going out it's going to be a godsend," said Stern.

And feeling safe is what Stern says is pushing him to be in line until doors open at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

"Early on, I lost my brother-in-law and sister-in-law within a 3-day period from COVID," said Stern.

Stern says it's one thing to see numbers on a screen, but it's different when it hits home.

"That made it real," said Stern.

But Stern was not the only one determined to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We've packed everything we need, no matter how cold it gets," said Robert Lightner.

Robert and Pamela Lightner arrived at the Cultural Park Theater around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"We just wanted to make sure that it's in the bag; we are guaranteed our spot in line," said Robert Lightner.

While they plan to use masks still and take other precautions, the Sterns say getting this vaccine will take a weight off their shoulders.

"We can't see our family, so this is the first step to getting to be with our family and getting back to normal," said Pamela Lightner.

The county says its IT division is evaluating tech options for a potential reservation system, but right now their goal is to get the vaccine administered as soon as possible.

People can dial 211 to ask any questions about the vaccination process.

To expedite the experience in line, people may go to leegov.com/vaccine and print and complete the Moderna consent form.

Medical workers and people age 65 and older qualify for the vaccine. The county says the vaccinations are intended for Lee County residents; however, no one will be turned away who meet the 65+ criteria.

Lee County will have three vaccination sites on Wednesday:

Cultural Park Theater
528 Cultural Park Blvd.
Cape Coral, FL 33919
9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

North Fort Myers Recreation Center
2000 N. Recreation Park Way
North Fort Myers, FL 33903
9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Lakes Regional Library
15290 Bass Rd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
9 a.m. - 6 p.m.