When Jessica Berrett brought her 76-year-old mother to Utah County’s Spanish Fork vaccination clinic for a scheduled appointment on Friday afternoon, Berrett expected to be in and out in a reasonable amount of time.
Instead, she spent two hours waiting in line. This was the result of some extra doses that allowed hundreds more Utahns to get unexpectedly vaccinated, but added some significant delays.
For the first 30 minutes, Berrett waited outside in the rain while her mother sat in the car. After that, the pair waited inside surrounded by dozens of others. The line looped back and forth like a line in Disneyland, according to Berrett. She said she hasn’t been in an indoor place that was so crowded since last March.
“It was the exact kind of thing I have been trying to avoid for 10 months now,” she said.
People can still contract COVID-19 after getting one dose of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people might not be protected from the virus until a week or two after their second shot.
Berrett said she considered leaving but wanted her mom to get the vaccine. She found her mother a place to sit and they stuck it out. Berrett said the healthcare workers and members of the National Guard running the clinic were professional and courteous. She said she felt bad for them and for everyone who had to wait inside.
Her father-in-law went to the same clinic earlier in the day and was in and out in less than 30 minutes.
Berrett’s mother, Dona Hansen, said that the other people waiting in line were very patient, but many had back and knee problems and had to sit down.
Why were there so many people waiting at once?
The Utah County Health Department did not respond to requests for comment from The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday.
In a since-deleted tweet, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said Friday that extra spots became available at the clinic in the middle of the day, allowing hundreds to show up and get vaccinated. She said there were still “logistical hurdles” to overcome.
Henderson said in a statement to The Tribune that Utah County did a “tremendous job” getting the clinic, which was set up in a former Shopko, up to speed and has efficiently vaccinated thousands of people this week.
“But when they discovered extra doses today, they opened up new spots which overwhelmed the system, resulting in long lines for a couple of hours this afternoon,” she said. “Utah County has addressed the situation in order to ensure it won’t happen again.”
Berrett said she received a text on Friday before her mother’s 3:10 p.m. appointment saying another 500 appointments had been created. She said she didn’t think that would impact her mother’s slot.
Berrett said people stopped coming in around 4:30 p.m. Her mother finally got the vaccine around 5 p.m.