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Confusion, long wait times mar beginning of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in St. Johns County

Confusion, delay and frustration as many say the vaccine rollout on the First Coast was disorganized.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Confusion, delay and frustration, as the vaccine expansion rolls out on the First Coast health officials are responding to what many are calling a disorganized few days.

In Duval County, that led to people booking more than one appointment which is something local officials warned was bogging down the system.

In St. Johns County hundreds of people waited in line, even blocking one county road as cars stretched a mile and a half from the health department’s door.

Some people felt lucky to get the vaccine but others were turned away.

This week, the county opened up vaccines to everyone 65 and older without an appointment.

Some people waited as long as six hours before they got their vaccine.

Debbie Flaherty, a St. Johns County resident says she tried calling for information, eventually set up an appointment but was turned away when she arrived.

“The rollout of the vaccination for the people who are 65 and over in St. Johns County is lacking in organization and lacking in follow-through,” Flaherty said.

She said her appointment was scheduled between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on New Years Day.

While waiting in line, she learned the health department said an appointment was not required anymore.

“At 11:16 we got turned away, we said 'we have an appointment,' we were told by the police officer at the gate, 'not today, we had been done for the day,'” Flaherty added.

Others like Kathrin King say they were lucky. King waited for six hours, and the line was cut off four cars behind her.

She is getting the vaccine because four of her family members had COVID-19, one of whom nearly died she says.

As she waited in line, she said she had her qualms about getting the vaccine.

"Right now I'm not feeling that [the wait is worth it], but I think I'll feel that way later, just kind of tired of waiting," King said.

King agrees the wait was long and the vaccine rollout should be more organized.

The St. Johns County Health Department says they are encouraging anyone turned away to come back. 

Flaherty says she doesn't want her time wasted.

“We’re older, all of the people in line are older. We have health issues, so to remain in a car for 3 to 4 hours and to be turned away is just unacceptable,” Flaherty said.

The health department says 340 people were given vaccines on Friday, with 191 vehicles counted.

Officials did not have an estimate of how many cars were turned away.

The health department is encouraging people to arrive early on Saturday if they want to get the vaccine.

Vaccines will be given between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Duval County health officials say they also experienced issues with people booking multiple appointments online.

Part of the confusion may be because patients do not receive a confirmation email when they book an appointment, as some might expect.

Officials in Duval County encourage people to make sure they select a date and time before submitting their appointment request.

They also suggest taking a picture of the confirmation message that appears on your screen when your request is approved and bring that with you to your appointment.


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