PAHOKEE, Fla. — A WPTV investigation found that rumors that people from other parts of Palm Beach County are taking advantage of a COVID-19 vaccine site in Pahokee are true.
People getting their second shots at the Pahokee site told WPTV's Michelle Quesada the line to get vaccinated was definitely not this long last month. More people are hearing about the Pahokee site which was actually created for residents in the Glades who can’t drive long distances to get vaccinated.
Sugar cane field and alligator heads creep up on the surface of canals along State Road 717.
A town of just over 6,000 residents on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, Pahokee was named after the Seminole word for "grassy waters."
For residents out west in Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay -- known as the Glades communities -- there weren’t too many options to get the COVID-19 vaccine until recently.
"You may get a little body ache, you may get some soreness in that area," a medical staff member told a patient at the Pahokee site.
Darlene Tippery of Belle Glade waited more than an hour in the car to get her first COVID-19 vaccine.
"Oh, it was very painless, he’s good," Tippery said.
The appointment-less drive-thru vaccine site at Anquan Boldin Stadium at Pahokee High School opened more than a month ago to serve the rural and underserved communities in western Palm Beach County.
But the word is out.
"We live in Royal Palm Beach," one patient said.
"I am from West Palm Beach," another patient said.
"You said you’re from Palm Beach Gardens?" Quesada asked a patient.
"That’s correct," the patient answered.
The site is only open on Fridays and Saturdays and wait times are rounding up to more than two hours now.
Joe Harrington of Pahokee said he got his first shot last month and there were barely any cars in line
"We were like eighth in line last time and now we’re 25 or 30th," Harrington said.
County leaders have acknowledged that, at first, there was some skepticism about the vaccine in the Glades, but educational outreach has helped.
Palm beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay advocated for that Pahokee site for her constituents, but said she’s waiting on zip code data from the health department to see if they are making progress.
"I've heard stories that we are getting a lot of people who don’t live in the western communities taking advantage of those vaccination opportunities," McKinlay said. "Give me some zip code level data and I'll be able to tell you whether or not we are doing a good job."
People who get the vaccine have to show proof of Florida residency and of course meet the eligibility criteria.
There are many locals getting vaccinated at the site, but there are also many like Audrey Freeman of West Palm Beach in line for her second shot, who said driving an hour to finally be vaccinated against COVID-19 is worth it.
"I think, you know, how there’s a best kept secret? I think the secret is out," Freeman said.
New data released by Palm Beach County shows how many seniors have been vaccinated by zip code. 500 out of 970 people over the age of 65 in Pahokee have received the COVID-19 vaccine, that's 51.5 % of the senior population. @VoteMcKinlay @WPTV pic.twitter.com/TnueFqrovA— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) March 17, 2021