Local News

Franklin County COVID-19 vaccination site backed up by massive turnout

Posted January 21, 2021 2:58 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2021 6:56 p.m. EST

The line at a drive-thru vaccine clinic at the Triangle North airport in Franklin County caused traffic blockages and deterred people from getting their vaccine.

Video from Sky 5 showed the line of cars stretching for at least a mile down the nearby road, causing traffic congestion and frustration.

Multiple people posted social media complaints or called WRAL while still waiting in line.

Vaccine lines were seeing going way down the road and blocking traffic in Franklin County.

One couple, who said they had an appointment set for 9:30 a.m., said they had been in line for a few hours – only to have a deputy directing traffic advise them to leave and then come back in two hours.

Michael McDowell, who was also waiting in the long line, said the wait was so bad he turned around and left.

A message on Facebook said, "Currently at the Louisburg drive-thru vaccination site. They did not begin until 10 a.m., and the line was already 2 miles back from the airport at 9:45 a.m."

Vaccine lines were seeing going way down the road and blocking traffic in Franklin County.

Registration information from the vaccine organizers read, "Only those who have received phone or email confirmation with tomorrow's clinic date, time, and location may attend" and that only "individuals 65 and older and frontline healthcare workers who have completed the registration process are being accepted."

Franklin County Health Director Scott LaVigne plans to review how the day went to learn from it. He also plans to get in touch with the Wake County Health Director on how they might coordinate efforts in the future.

"This is the first time we have had a lot of people coming from Wake County and other surrounding counties for this event," LaVigne said. "That is really what contributed to [the line]. We want to be good neighbors."

LaVigne says despite the wait, operations ran pretty smoothly. In all, 1,510 patients were vaccinated Thursday before they had to begin turning folks away around 3 p.m.

"At one point, we had 234 [patients] in one hour that we put through," LaVigne explained. "That is phenomenal."

Despite organizing the event with registration and appointments, the long lines and wait times seemed to be causing many people to miss their appointment times – even deterring some people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine today at all.

But LaVigne is confident in the county's ability to make adjustments to the number of patients while still executing the distribution efficiently.

"If we have the vaccine ... we are going to put you through our process and get you on your way. That is what we want to do, that is what we are really good at doing," LaVigne said.

He says he'll look to coordinate with the Wake County Health Department for the next round of vaccines at this location.

"What we weren't ready for was the mass migration, for lack of a better word, of people coming out to [this] location here today," LaVigne said. "I put out an email to the Wake County Health Director. I want to make sure we pool our resources ... so we can better coordinate things."

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