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New indoor vaccination site readied for Wednesday opening

Old Sears building at Edison Mall will be used for COVID inoculations

By CJ HADDAD - | Apr 12, 2021

Hours after Mother Nature rained down on Southwest Florida for the first time in some time, county officials detailed their transition from the RSW COVID-19 vaccination site to their new indoor location.

Staged at the old Sears building at the Edison Mall in Fort Myers, the first shots at this site will go into arms Wednesday on the verge of the hot and humid rainy season.

Lee County Commission Chair Kevin Ruane spoke Monday morning about the venue, and said county and Department of Health – Lee personnel are prepared for the relocation.

“The RSW site has been a huge success, to say the least,” Ruane said. “We look forward to continued success at the new location. We anticipate a seamless transition.”

He thanked the 100-plus staff workers who helped administer more than 160,000 inoculations over 49 days of operation at the airport site.

The major reason for the shift inside had, of course, to do with the upcoming summer weather that could put a damper on vaccine distribution if still at an outdoor venue.

Ruane said the 120,000-square-foot facility would allow for current levels of vaccinations to remain the same and shipments have increased week after week due, in part, to advocates from DOH-Lee. He added it would resemble the old site in terms of layout and arranged to get individuals through the process expeditiously. He is confident their supply, along with other outlets such as local pharmacies and physician groups, will be enough to vaccinate the public in the area.

“We’re following the governor’s executive order. We’ve opened this up. It’s just really having the demand come on through,” he said. “We want to see everyone get vaccinated. (Gov. Ron DeSantis) has lowered all the various ages, so I don’t see a challenge in front of us.”

When asked, Ruane said residents should trust the vaccine and said it is a stepping-stone to a return to normalcy.

“I always encourage people – if you have some hesitation, please contact us. We’ll give you all of the pertinent information,” he said. “This has been safe. So many different people have (been) vaccinated. I just encourage it. We can get to herd immunity, we can get back to our normal way of life.”

Another reason the location was chosen was its accessibility to public transit.

“The new site is centrally located along public transportation routes, is about 5 miles from Interstate 75 and offers ample parking. It is easily accessed and could accommodate expanded evening and weekend hours of operation,” county officials said in a release.

Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his team is ready to handle increased traffic in the area and will make adjustments, if needed.

The site will vaccinate eligible individuals registered through the State of Florida website, https://myvaccine.fl.gov/#/, or by phone at 866-200-3468. DeSantis recently expanded eligibility for all people age 18 and older that went into effect April 5.

Those who received their first dose at RSW between March 18 and Tuesday, March 30, will receive a call in the coming weeks from the state’s vendor, Tidal Basin, to schedule their second-dose appointments at the indoor site.

More information can be found at www.leegov.com/vaccine. The new site at the Edison Mall is at 4125 Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj