A mass drive-thru-style COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Dover Division of Motor Vehicles was supposed to be part of the "Sprint to 1a," or the state's plans to vaccinate the remainder of healthcare workers, first responders, and long-term care workers. Except WDEL has confirmed reports that a number of Delawareans who weren't part of Phase 1a or even part of the next, upcoming Phase 1b, were vaccinated Saturday, drawing ire among the community.
The Delaware Division of Public Health's leader Dr. Karyl Rattay has pleaded for patience throughout the vaccination process. But Delawareans' patience is wearing thin, especially now, that they've learned those who weren't part of Phase 1a were vaccinated Saturday.
While a small number of seniors were asked to attend the vaccination clinic by DPH to test distribution efforts, WDEL has learned of instances of people being vaccinated who were neither seniors not part of Phase 1a.
When reached for comment, Jen Brestel, a spokeswoman for DPH told WDEL they plan to tighten protocols at upcoming mass vaccination events.
"We ask anyone not in those groups to please refrain from attempting to get vaccinated at the sites this weekend. Screening will be tightened for Sunday and Monday events and those not in those groups may be turned away. Vaccines remain in extremely short supply and are reserved for your friends and neighbors who need it most."
On social media, commenters expressed a variety of emotions from anger to disappointment:
"I am very disappointed in the state of Delaware for not following through with their vaccination dissemination plan," one person said.
"This is becoming a 'who you know' thing," said another.
A third person said: "I’m totally discouraged now because I’m a 1b person with no connection to advanced notification of vaccinations or groups that may be offered a vaccination event."
In response, Delaware Health and Social Services spokeswoman Jill Fredel reiterated:
"We will be checking IDs and paperwork at Sunday's clinic. Shame on the people who jumped the line," she said.
Others have reached out to WDEL since this article was published, saying they're being shamed for "cutting in line" when really they were told by friends of the DMV program, or by word of mouth, to come after 4 p.m. to receive any "leftover" vaccine.
"At no time -- absolutely no time -- did I think I was taking a vaccine from anyone. I never would have gone if I had even suspected it wasn't appropriate," said one person who wished to remain anonymous and reached out to WDEL after this article was published.
"I was fully prepared to be turned away and would have answered any questions accurately, if anyone had asked. I'm clearly not a senior. No one indicated the slightest hesitancy in giving me the vaccine," the person said. "Social media (including the person commenting on DHSS' behalf on Facebook) is making it sound like we intended to game the system. The problem was on DPH or DHSS' end."
DPH officials have made no mention that the potential expiration of any vaccine quantities played a role in what occurred Saturday.
Delaware has been slow to rollout vaccinations. With more than 77,000 doses of vaccine received, just about half that amount of vaccine has been administered, according to the state's vaccine tracker.
DPH has said Phase 1b, which includes those over the age of 65, educators, grocery store workers, and some other essential employees would begin in the middle or end of this month. The phase includes more than 200,000 Delawareans.
"We are going to need a lot more vaccine to get two doses in everyone," said Fredel on Facebook.