The opening of San Bernardino County’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Tuesday was met with complaints of hourslong waits and disorganization.
Appointments for the one-day vaccination event had quickly filled up almost as soon as they were opened Monday morning. All 3,500 available appointment slots were booked in less than 20 minutes, county Supervisor Janice Rutherford told KTLA.
Tuesday’s event kicked off at 9 a.m. and was scheduled to continue through 6 p.m.
Everything had gone smoothly until about 11:30 a.m., when a huge line formed outside the speedway, according to Corwin Porter, director of public health for San Bernardino County.
Several people wrote in to KTLA complaining of long lines and delays. At least one person said their family member had to leave without getting a vaccine after waiting for hours.
“When I saw the line all the way back almost to the 210 [Freeway], I just figured I better get in line and just sit there and wait,” Michael Ashford-Gordon, who got his vaccine Tuesday, told KTLA.
Officials had asked people not to show up more than 15 minutes ahead of their scheduled slot. But authorities believe many people showed up well before their appointment time, creating traffic flow issues, Porter said.
“Folks are excited to get their vaccine,” he said. “Despite our message to come just 15 minutes before their appointment, folks showed up before that.”
Wait times decreased after the morning rush, and the county worked with the California Highway Patrol to open up more space inside the speedway for the lines.
Officials said people who stayed in line eventually did get their vaccine, and cars were still streaming in after 6 p.m. The county planned to keep the site open as long as it took to get a shot to everyone with an appointment.
Ashford-Gordon said the wait was ultimately worth it.
“It felt good,” he said. “I’m 73 years old with congestive heart failure, so this may be a lifesaver for me.”
Porter advised people to be patient and show up on time.
“We will make sure that we have vaccine for you,” he said.
Tuesday’s was the county’s first large-scale vaccination event, but more are in the planning stages. Details on others will be provided as soon as they’re available, Porter said.
Currently, San Bernardino County is only offering vaccines to people 65 years of age and older, front-line health care workers and first responders.
Those who do get a shot at the Speedway Tuesday will be automatically scheduled to receive their second dose at a follow-up event at the Speedway on March 2.
County residents who are at least 65 years old can click here to sign up for email or text message updates on vaccination opportunities. To check vaccine appointment availability at county-operated sites, hospitals and pharmacies, click here.
Those who need help making appointments can call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at 909-387-3911.
Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly identified the San Bernardino County public health official quoted. This post has been updated.