Lee County manager admits first week of vaccine roll out ‘was not pretty’

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais is taking his share of the blame for the long lines of people left waiting through the night to receive their vaccination.

Desjarlais blames the lines on the lack of planning. He said he had just two days warning that Lee County was getting the vaccine and that the county had to figure out how to administer the vaccine.

Desjarlais said he received a call on December 26 telling him that thousands of vaccines would arrive in two days on December 28 — and it was his job to figure out distribution along with county officials.

“Everyone knows that the first week was not pretty. We had first come first serve,” Desjarlais said.

That drew long lines of people waiting overnight to get vaccinated.

Q & A

Dave Elias: Well you knew for 9 months this was coming. Your response?

Roger Desjarlais: It’s always been assumed by everyone that it was going to be a federal and state operation

Dave Elias: So you’re inside this. Who dropped the ball in your opinion?

Roger Desjarlais: You know Dave, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure what ball has been dropped and here’s why. There is a failure in the supply chain somewhere, and I couldn’t tell you where that is. I don’t know if it’s Washington or if it’s with the pharmaceutical companies. I don’t know.

Dave Elias: It sounds like this has been a tough couple of weeks for you admitting this did fall on your shoulders?

Roger Desjarlais: It sounds like it fell on my shoulders, but it fell on a lot of shoulders. It’s on the shoulders of the local health department and their team. It’s on the shoulders of the board of county commissioners

Dave Elias: What’s the plan going forward to make sure if more vaccines are administered will you be ready to get them into arms?

Roger Desjarlais: I can tell you with confidence that we can today we could ramp up to do 6 ,000 to 8,000 doses per day that we could administer, and with only a few changes, we could ramp that up to 10,000.

He also confirmed there is a plan to get those in minority and poorer communities vaccinated.

“The plan will be mobile units that will go into the underserved community and we can administer vaccines that way,” Desjarlais said.

There is no timeline on when those mobile units will hit the roads.

What about people who need that second shot? He said phone calls are being made now to get them.

Finally Desjarlais admitted he has no idea what method the governor is using to determine how many doses each county gets.

He said anyone waiting for a call back to be patient that a return call is coming. They just don’t have enough people to return all the calls at once.

Elsewhere in SWFL

Collier County Health Department spokesperson Kristine Hollingsworth said they knew they were going to be in charge of vaccine distribution.

“Part of the rollout within the state of Florida was that every county can make the decision as to how they can roll it out based on the needs of their county as well as population base,” Hollingsworth said.

Jeffrey Tambasco Emergency Management Manager for DeSoto County says they have been prepping for the vaccine for months.

“DeSoto County knew from the start. We were planning months and months in advance for the vaccine rollout,” Tambasco said.

Communications Manager for Charlotte County Brian Gleason said the same.

“We knew all along how the system would be set up and that the Department of Health would get the vaccine and we would help them with the logistics of setting up facilities to provide the vaccine service,” Gleason said.

Read More: Lee County manager admits first week of vaccine roll out ‘was not pretty’

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