ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County vaccinated people 65 years old and above for COVID-19 on Thursday, attracting a line of cars trying to reach its office off U.S. 1 north of State Road 16. Things could get even worse Friday as the office will give vaccines from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.on New Year’s Day.
The line of cars waiting to get into the health department’s parking lot backed up onto U.S. 1. Sky 4 flying over the site off U.S. 1 at midday Thursday showed a long line of cars backed up along the highway. People had to wait in the same line, whether they had appointments or not.
Dianne Morse, a local dentist, said she showed up for a 10:30 a.m. appointment and waited in line for more than three hours.
“The people who were actually supposed to be here, with appointments, are stuck in these lines and are probably not going to get their vaccines today,” Morse said.
While people waiting were excited and happy among the first in the county to get the vaccine, they complained about the lack of communication from the county health department, many hearing about the vaccine availability through word of mouth.
Late Thursday, News4Jax said 280 doses of the vaccine were administered, but a health department spokeswoman declined to be interviewed about why people without appointments were allowed to get vaccinations.
Beth Slate showed up without an appointment and waited 3½ hours in line. She got her vaccine.
“Our understanding is that they weren’t making appointments,” Slate said.
“It would have been better if they had rolled this thing out with a plan, saying, ‘This is what you need to do,’” St. Johns County resident Michael Gurski said. “I tried yesterday many times to make an appointment -- couldn’t get through. Either the system wasn’t capable (or of) taking, I guess, the volume of calls.”
To schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in St. Johns County, visit stjohns.floridahealth.gov. For additional information regarding local vaccination operations, contact the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County at 904-506-6081 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information regarding the state’s vaccination plan, contact the Florida Department of Health at 866-779-6121 or email@example.com.
At this point, the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County are still in the first phase of vaccine distribution to the public, which includes:
- Health care personnel with direct patient contact
- Long-term care facility residents and staff
- Persons 65 years of age and older
The county received 3,000 doses of the vaccine and began giving shots to St. Johns County Fire Rescue personnel on Wednesday.
“We’ve seen our COVID numbers spike dramatically over the last several weeks as they have all across the country, and we want to make sure that our front-line responders who have that kind of direct patient contact, a lot of the time with the sickest COVID patients, have protection,” said Capt. Bob Snell. “We’re protecting our paramedics and EMTs so they can continue to work and get out there and do their jobs.”
Last week, Flagler Health+ received its first shipment of the vaccine and started administering it to its health care workers.
The federal and state government are directly administering vaccine distribution to long-term care facility residents and staff through private health care providers and pharmacies.
Fire Rescue said it will help administer the vaccine to the general public when the vaccine is more widely available.
In a news release early Wednesday evening, St. Johns County Emergency Management announced the health department is currently vaccinating persons 65 years of age and older daily by appointment only, while supplies last, at the Health and Human Services Building at 200 San Sebastian View in St. Augustine.
The county said it will actively provide additional information as more vaccines become available and the state Department of Health’s vaccination plan progresses. Visit the St. Johns County COVID-19 vaccinations webpage at www.sjcfl.us/coronavirusvaccinations or text SJCVACCINE to 888777 to receive updates.