A popup COVID-19 vaccine clinic in The Villages that was touted by Gov. Ron DeSantis a week ago has suddenly shut down and left the mega-retirement community.
The makeshift drive-through clinic, which was operated by Global Medical Response, was located in a grassy field near Buffalo Ridge Plaza in The Villages. The clinic generated controversy among residents when it first opened last week because its online registration form asked for Social Security numbers and sensitive medical information.
No explanation was offered Monday by Global Medical Response for dismantling the site and leaving The Villages. Early Monday afternoon, the only things left at the site were a tent, a Porta Potty and eight handwash stations. Frustrated Villagers were continuing to show up seeking information with no luck. One woman said she had been instructed to contact Walgreens, which made little sense since the drug store chain is largely involved in administering COVID-19 vaccines to patients of long-term facilities and doesn’t have doses available at stores.
Are you one of the Villagers or area residents who had a canceled appointment at the Global Medical Response site or are experiencing other vaccine frustrations? If so, please share your thoughts with us at [email protected].
The Global Medical Response site caused consternation among Villagers and area residents this past weekend when 7,500 vaccination appointments were suddenly postponed due to a failed shipment of the vaccine. A press release from Global Medical Response said it “suspended” operation of The Villages site because of a national vaccine shortage but made no mention of shutting down the makeshift clinic. It also promised an upcoming email with “important information” for those seeking their second dose or those who had registered for an appointment.
DeSantis made a stop at the site on Jan. 12 while touting his “Seniors First” vaccination plan. He bragged about how Florida had made the decision early on to make vaccinating seniors 65 and older a top priority and even suggested more doses could be available at the site if Global Medical Response could handle more traffic.
“If you look at Florida in terms of the number of shots that we have for senior citizens, we are leading the country by a country mile on this,” said DeSantis, who also was at the center of a controversy in December when the vaccine was administered to five high-profile Villagers with strong GOP ties.
“I can’t believe that the people in Washington state and Georgia have been able to get the vaccine so easily, and probably many other states I don’t know about and we in Florida, thanks to our governor’s ineptitude, are having such a hard time. Guess it didn’t do him much good to be such a Trump supporter,” said Julie Pennell of the Village of Santiago.
Paul and Kathleen Wholey of the Village of Amelia felt similar frustration when they arrived Saturday for their scheduled appointments and were turned away.
“How could that be? Surely they must have known how many people had been scheduled and how many doses they had,” Paul Wholey said.
Daniel Olvey of the Village of Pennecamp was fortunate to receive the vaccine on Friday from Global Medical Response but his wife’s Monday appointment was canceled.
“My question is who failed the system here? Was it at the federal or state level? And who can we contact to voice our opinions? It’s hard to fathom this was all put in place if the vaccine delivery was so unpredictable,” Olvey said.