DPH mass drive-thru vaccination clinic

Seniors invited to attend Saturday's mass drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Delaware City DMV had an appointment, but even having an appointment meant an hours-long wait with many spending their entire day in line, adding to frustration that surrounds the vaccination process.

Sunday, DPH told those with appointments to be prepared to wait for two hours or more.

Many took to social media Saturday to complain about the lengthy delays with traffic backing up onto Route 1 most of the day. Others left the line before it was their turn out of frustration, or a need for a restroom. Jen Brestel, a spokeswoman for the Division of Public Health (DPH) did not have exact figures on how many people had appointments, but left. 

"It is difficult to determine how many people decided to turn away due to the lengthy wait times," said Brestel.

Those who left the line early are advised to check the VAMS appointment system during the week to check for new vaccination events being listed.

Brestel told WDEL some of the issues that led to delays Saturday included people 65 and older showing up without appointments and having to be turned away. Additionally, individuals did not fill out the medical history portion of the form during the appointment-making process, slowing down the in-person process tremendously. She said traffic also hampered the event.

Additionally, extreme cold led to laptop power and battery issues on-site and more healthcare workers, long-term care staffers, and first responders from Phase 1a also showed up, as permitted, to be vaccinated, she said.

"Vaccine supply is so tight that we could not vaccinate every person in 1a who showed up," she said.

DPH had about 2,000 vaccine doses for healthcare workers at Saturday's mass drive-thru clinic.

Saturday afternoon, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, which encompasses DPH, posted a plea for patience on Facebook. They said they were committed to administering vaccine to anyone who remained in line, well past the event's scheduled conclusion. Both clinics at the Georgetown and Delaware City DMVs closed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Brestel said.

Neither site was short on volunteers, despite some volunteers also being stuck in traffic trying to get into the DMV to begin their shift.

"While we have asked for additional volunteers for Sunday’s events to assist with some process improvements, the sites were not short on volunteers today, though several were delayed in getting to the sites due to traffic as well," she said.

At the Delaware City DMV site, a total of 3,318 persons were vaccinated Saturday, including 2,818 seniors who had existing appointments and at least 500 people from Phase 1a. At the Georgetown DMV, a total of 2,348 persons were vaccinated Saturday, including 342 Phase 1a personnel. Over the course of three days, DPH had extended invitations to 11,500 seniors out of more than 73,000 who requested appointments.

In hopes that Sunday runs more smoothly, DPH is asking that those with appointments fill out all forms associated with the VAMS appointment process, including the pre-screening, which begins with a series of questions, including: "Do you feel sick today?"

If you don't have an appointment don't come to any vaccination site as it leads to delays and traffic back-ups, and you will be turned away.

But even with these asks, expect to wait two hours beyond your appointment time. DPH is asking that you don't attempt to arrive before your appointment time, as it will only extend your wait time and lead to additional traffic.

"Consider bringing snacks and any medication you may need," said Brestel. "Access to restroom facilities may be limited."

Others, who waited out lengthy delays Saturday suggested on social media that those with appointments for Sunday bring water, blankets, diapers, and ensure you have a full tank of gas. 

Phase 1b includes 200,000 Delawareans, including 186,000 seniors as well as educators, childcare workers, and some essential front-line employees.