ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Some residents in Pinellas County came up with a way to get a high-in-demand dose of the coronavirus vaccine when there seemed to be none. 8 On Your Side spoke with some individuals who showed up to the Department of Health in St. Petersburg on Tuesday morning without an appointment and got the shot.
Perseverance paid off for some, but not everyone. Those who got to the building by 8 a.m. Tuesday without an appointment said they were able to get the shot on the spot. However, by 10 a.m., we were told by many that you could only make an appointment. By noon, the line was shut down.
“I’m frustrated and worried for our state,” Kim McLery said of the process to get the vaccine.
McLery said she spent four hours Monday trying to make a COVID vaccine appointment before the state Department of Health announced websites and phone lines were shut down.
“We really apologize to everyone who tried calling in and scheduling, there were some technical difficulties beyond our control,” Maggie Hall with the Department of Health said.
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Hall said a quarter-million people in Pinellas County meet the criteria – being 65 and older – to get the vaccine.
“I would stress patience. We will get to everyone,” she said. “This is a very major, major effort and it’s a matter of doing it, you know, one by one.”
But McLery was determined. She hung up the phone, signed off the computer and showed up in person at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. To her surprise, she was offered a shot.
“I’m elated, definitely on the right side now,” McLery said.
As word of mouth spread, lines grew and hope escalated.
“I’m 70, I’m in a vulnerable population and I want to see my grandkids,” said Rae White as she stood in line hopeful to get the vaccine.
White also received one of the 3,000 Pfizer vaccine doses that the state said was dispensed to the county.
‘They should go buy a lottery ticket!” said Diane Fowler.
Fowler didn’t get the shot but did snag the paperwork and two appointments for herself and her husband to get the vaccine on Friday.
“I’m a defense contractor,” McLery said, noting that the vaccine means her livelihood. “My career requires travel with a lot of soldiers, airmen, sailors and so it’s not been really safe.”
McLery said the shot was a step in the right direction.
“I am lucky, very lucky,” she said. “It’s been a very long year and this is definitely turning the corner.”
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County opened a temporary phone line Tuesday to make an appointment, but calling that number and showing up to the building will no longer do you any good. The department said registration is closed because all 3,000 doses have been accounted for.
Officials said they’ll open more appointments when more doses arrive.
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