TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For the second day in a row on Friday, University Mall in Tampa saw cars snaked back and forth across the parking lot and out onto Fowler Avenue as hundreds of people lined up at the state-run vaccination location.
The line takes hours to navigate, and that presented a problem to 96-year-old George Darwin as he waited.
“It’s pretty rough to have this length. I’m 96 year years old and it’s really hard on me,” said Darwin.
He didn’t want to get out of line, but was clearly uncomfortable as he inched ahead in his car.
“I have to go to the bathroom right now and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I hope I make it.”
WFLA counted eight portable bathrooms at the location, but a person wanting to use one of the facilities would have to wait in line for at least two hours before they were even visible.
The line is so long, some people have run out of gas as they wait.
“I just think this is the most incompetent thing I’ve ever seen, to make us wait three hours and then we don’t get our second COVID shot,” said Howard Schechter, who was turned away from the vaccination location.
Like hundreds of others, Schechter received his first dose of the vaccine at the University Mall location and was advised to return 21 days later, even if he didn’t have an appointment to get his second dose of the vaccine.
Schechter received his vaccine at the mall when the location was being run by Hillsborough County. The vaccine site is now being run by the state of Florida. Schechter says there was no communication from anyone about the change or what to do.
“We waited three hours and then the guys who were working – the National Guard guys or whatever they are – told us we are not on the computer list and that we can’t get our second shot today,” said Schechter.
Bette Warter lives in Plant City and went to the University Mall location for her second dose of the vaccine on Thursday. She was turned away because she didn’t have an appointment.
At the suggestion of a public health official, Warter registered for an appointment on the state’s website. She was advised someone would call her back with an appointment.
Late Thursday, someone did call her back with an offer of an appointment. But their solution was absurd.
“They wanted to give me the vaccine – my second dose, but in Miami,” said Warter, who advised the person on the phone she would not physically be able to make the drive. “I told her that was too far to go pending my medical condition and that it would be a tremendous hardship on me.”