Elderly wait outdoors for hours to get vaccinated

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Vaccinations are underway for those 75 year and older. But although the shot takes five minutes, the wait could be much longer.

83-year-old Mary Ray waited outdoors for an hour and 45 minutes Thursday, something she says she was not prepared for.

Arriving just minutes before her 2 pm appointment, Rays said she was shocked when she pulled up.

“No, I had no idea we’d be waiting outside,” said Ray. “I was so surprised, When I finally found a parking spot, to see that the line stretched all the way around the senior center.”

Searching for the end of the line, Ray said she and dozens of men and women–some in their 90’s and in wheelchairs– waited outside in the cold, some without a jacket.

“I was lucky. I had a jacket on that was fairly warm. But I would’ve worn a warmer one if I’d known.”

After almost two hours of waiting, Ray was finally able to get a vaccine.

“We were definitely happy to get the vaccination, but you know, it would’ve been nice to have had some warning.”

Ray worried about those getting the vaccine on days when the weather isn’t sunny and mild. She hopes New Hanover County will make changes to reduce lineups, and keep people comfortable while they wait.

“Time slots of every ten minutes, something like that. Rather than from two to three or three to four. The three o’clock ones who were coming up behind me, the line was just as long. And it probably was dark before they ever got away from there.”

County officials say they are aware of the issues. They released a statement that reads:

“New Hanover County Public Health hears you, and we know that some of our residents have had longer wait times than anticipated at our vaccination sites or are concerned about being outside in rain or cold weather. Our first day of vaccinations had an influx of activity and reservations, from people wanting to get in first – and after the day was done, we had vaccinated around 1,100 people. It was busy, but we consider it a success that we have been able to reach that many people already, and our work is just beginning. Our Emergency Management and Public Health teams have already set up tents at the sites, and we have chairs and other supports as needed for our residents. We are working hard to move people quickly and efficiently through the vaccine process and will continue to be responsive to the needs of our community and continually improve our services as we move forward.”

Though the New Hanover County Senior Center was quiet today, lines stretched around the front and side of the New Hanover County Health Department. People waited outdoors under a tent for their vaccine.

Earlier today, WWAY got word the Health Department set up heaters along the line earlier Friday evening, and New Hanover Regional Medical Center will also begin to offer vaccines to those 75 years and older.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, News, Top Stories

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