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University Mall COVID-19 vaccine site sees second day of long lines

The Hillsborough County Department of Health is urging those without an appointment to stay home.

TAMPA, Fla — Long lines are back at the University Mall coronavirus vaccine site in Tampa that was plagued with mile-long lines Thursday afternoon

Frustrated Floridians say a lack of organization has led to the long lines, while leaders with the Hillsborough County Health Department say a "perfect storm" caused the situation.

Feb. 11 was the first time the site was giving out both first and second doses of the vaccine, but some people without an appointment for their second dose showed up anyway because of information on their vaccine card. 

IMPORTANT: The date listed on an individual’s CDC vaccination card is not a confirmed appointment. 

Individuals who do not have an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be asked to return only when they have an appointment.

If an individual has not been contacted for their second dose appointment and it is past the date listed on their CDC vaccination card there are two things to do: 

  • Call the designated helpline for your county
  • Visit myvaccine.fl.gov and provide your contact information. From there you will select the box that says, “Are you seeking your first dose?” and then choose, “No, I am seeking my second dose,” from the drop-down menu.

Even with the Hillsborough County Department of Health urging residents to not show up to the site without an appointment, lines once again could be seen wrapping around the site Friday.

Anyone who shows up to the site without an appointment will be turned away, according to the county.

Fred Wright showed up Thursday afternoon for his first dose of the vaccine. Wright's wife, Karen Wright had been trying to get an appointment for her husband for weeks and finally thought they were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, when they arrived at University Mall, anxiety swept over the couple and they decided to turn around. 

"They were already out there honking their horns and yelling at each other," said Fred Wright, who suffered a stroke a decade ago and had quadruple heart bypass surgery a few years back.

Karen Wright said the line was backed up for miles. The experience left them frustrated and hopeless. 

"There was no way we were going to wait in that line," said Wright, who ended up e-mailing state senators, county commissioners, and 10 Tampa Bay for help.

Fortunately, the Wrights were able to make an appointment at a Publix in Pasco County for next week.

By Friday, Florida health officials were asking those with appointments to be inoculated to come with a full tank of gas and to use the restroom before hopping in line. The warning seems to be with good reason. Cars were lined up across mall property by lunchtime on Friday.

Samantha Bequer, Press Secretary with the Florida Division of Emergency Management said the site brought on additional law enforcement to assist with traffic control Friday.

"Site staff are working quickly to identify individuals who do not have an appointment and asking them to return when they do have a confirmed appointment to reduce traffic congestion and site wait times. Additionally, site staff are working with the University Mall property representatives to address operational issues to reduce traffic congestion in the area," Bequer said in an e-mail.

Keep in mind, there are other vaccine sites available. County leaders suggest using the state website to register to be alerted when new appointments are available in your area. You can also try getting a spot at a local Walmart, Winn Dixie or Publix Pharmacy.

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