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High demand for COVID-19 vaccine leaves Florida seniors struggling to get the jab: ‘It seems hopeless’

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Upon stepping into 75-year-old Nancy Smythe’s home office in Naples, Fla., one might assume she’s running her own small business. 

Surrounding her is a Mac computer, an iPad, and a cell phone which she pours over incessantly for 3-4 hours a day. As her eyes dart back and forth from screen to screen, her right-hand scratches notes on a nearby legal pad. She even has a bottle of sparkling water no more than an arm’s length away to avoid having to move.

Smythe is on a mission, but it’s not for a job. Every day she tries her hand at scoring an elusive appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, no luck. No matter how many different devices she uses, the spots always get snatched up as soon as they become available.

Nancy Smythe (pictured) uses multiple devices for 3-4 hours each day to try and lock down a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. But no matter how many screens she uses, they always seem to get snatched up (Robert Sherman, Fox News).

“It seems hopeless,” Smythe told Fox News with a dejected sigh. “You feel like you should move on with life and not try. I want a cure! I mean, I want to save my life.”

Smythe is not alone in this problem. A few hours north, at The Villages retirement community, which has well over 100,000 residents, just a lucky few hundred were able to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot Wednesday. 

But, it was not easy.

“Got up early, got online right at the right time, and connected on our second try,” resident Jim Nelson told Fox News. 

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Both he and his wife were able to punch through and get an appointment but conceded they’re worried about their chances for getting the second dose.

Gary Perlack, another resident, got lucky as well, thanks to the help of his wife who took the lead on booking appointments. But even though Perlack was able to get a spot, his wife was not.

“Everybody’s scrambling,” Perlack told Fox News. “I’ll be truthful. I know people who have 2 or 3 computers going, trying to get on this list, and it’s tough.”

Long lines at a vaccination site in Daytona Beach, Fla. 

Long lines at a vaccination site in Daytona Beach, Fla. 
(Chris Pontius, Fox News)

Florida as a state has vaccinated the third-most number of people so far, trailing only California and Texas — the two most-heavily populated states in the country. 

But the demand in Florida for seniors to get the COVID-19 vaccine is exceptionally great, with over 20% of the state’s population being 65 or older. 

At a news conference in The Villages Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters there are more doses of the vaccine on the way, more vaccination sites are opening up, and they will continue to make seniors the priority.

“There is no state that is even close to us in terms of [vaccinating] seniors,” said DeSantis. “The vast majority of our total vaccinations are going to seniors and that percentage is going to grow more disproportionately in favor of seniors as we get through the next many many weeks.”

The governor tweeted out a portion of his remarks at The Villages below:

Even though the state has taken the stance of prioritizing seniors, the demand remains large and, perhaps, even growing. Fox 13 News in Tampa reports claims of “vaccine tourism” where out-of-state residents head to Florida to get the shot, then return home. 

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While DeSantis has thus far said these claims are overblown, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s office says they have received a number of complaints. 

Smythe remains worried about the demand, and the difficulty she has had in getting vaccinated.

Her husband battling health complications received good news that he will be vaccinated next month. For the sake of protecting him until then, and for her own safety, Smythe adamantly affirms she will keep pecking and scrolling away at her devices until she gets her own shot.

“I will get the vaccine. I have got to get the vaccine,” said Smythe. “I just hope that my determination pays off, and I hear of something somewhere. It’s just hope.”

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