Jeff Neiburg Via Delaware News Journal
Bonnie and Bob Siley followed the instructions. They registered online to be vaccinated, filled out all the forms and waited for their time slot.
Bob, 83, has cancer and is a higher priority than his wife, so he was among the 11,500 older adults selected to be vaccinated through state-run events this weekend in Delaware City and Georgetown.
The Sileys received a response from the state that Bob was approved for an appointment, and they scheduled one for the 11 to 11:30 a.m. slot Saturday at the Delaware City Division of Motor Vehicles.
They left their suburban Wilmington home at 10:15 a.m. Saturday and returned just before 2 p.m.
They never got close to entering the DMV's grounds near where Route 1 meets Route 72 and Wrangle Hill Road.
"It was a nightmare," said Bonnie, 80.
She said they moved about 150 feet while waiting for more than 1½ hours. With no idea how long it would take to get close to the DMV, they decided to leave.
"Thank God we got out of line," Bonnie said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen."
Bonnie said she spoke with another friend who had a scheduled time slot between 11:30 a.m. and noon who also left before being vaccinated.
So, too, did Evan Winslow's grandfather.
Winslow said his father and grandfather also had an appointment in the 11:30 to noon time slot. He said they had heard from another person who was scheduled for 9 a.m. and didn't reach the front of the line until 1:30 p.m.
Unsure how much longer it would take until they reached the front, they decided to leave, though they later returned.
In a Facebook post after 2 p.m., the Department of Health and Social Services said: "If you have an appointment, you will receive a vaccine today, so please stay in line if you can. We apologize for the delay caused by technical issues."
Division of Public Health spokeswoman Jen Brestel said in an email: "For those with appointments Saturday and Sunday, it is important that you fill out the medical history information in the VAMS account you created so it does not have to be added at the vaccination event. Please use the username and password you created to make the appointment to go back to VAMS and add the Medical History information before you reach the vaccination event."
The state planned on vaccinating 11,500 older adults and 2,000 phase 1A health care workers this weekend in Delaware City and Georgetown. The vaccinations were by appointment only. Traffic near the Georgetown DMV was snarled in the area of Route 113 and South Bedford Street/Shortly Road, where long lines of people waited.
The Georgetown facility could hold about 400 cars on the DMV property, a Delaware Department of Transportation worker said. People at that facility were reporting wait times of three hours on Facebook.
Tens of thousands of Delawareans in phase 1B registered this week to be vaccinated through the state's online system. From that group, 11,500 were selected based on priority for this weekend's event. On Friday, 500 people were vaccinated at the Delaware City DMV, and thousands more were expected to be vaccinated Saturday and Sunday at both locations.
For some, the long wait was expected.
Elizabeth Monaghan, a former emergency medicine nurse, said she and her husband were expecting a long day getting vaccinated at the Georgetown site.
"We have friends like us in many other states who aren’t even hopeful for a vaccine soon," she wrote in an email.
Monaghan said while "there is always room for improvement," the people – volunteers, public health employees, first responders – should be commended.
"Finally in the holding area for a short 15 minutes to wait out any immediate unexpected reaction... we looked at each other thankful that we were fortunate to have come to this point after 10 long months," she said.
"What has to be remembered is that we are all in this mess together. Patience and understanding for the tasks at hand is required. Along with kindness – deep breaths help too –will get us all through this."
Monaghan said the round-trip time was around three hours.
Others at Delaware City experienced longer waits.
Like the Sileys, another Hockessin couple left their house around 10 a.m. for their 11 a.m. appointment. The couple, who did not want to be named, spoke to Delaware Online/The News Journal by cell phone around 3 p.m. and said the car's trip odometer had yet to hit 15 miles. They had been on Route 1 south sitting in traffic for around five hours.
"I've never, ever, seen traffic like this in Delaware," said the man, 77. "This is absolutely abysmal."
But unlike the Sileys, the couple said they were going to wait it out.
"We need these vaccines," the man said, because his wife has underlying health issues.
They, too, had preregistered online and received appointment confirmations.
"We did everything right," said the woman, 73.
The couple had phoned police in an effort to get traffic controlled. They were concerned about some older adults not being able to wait in the long lines without access to a bathroom or food.
They later called The News Journal back after they were vaccinated at 5:15 p.m., seven hours after they left their Hockessin home. Once they got inside the DMV complex, they said it was much more organized.
"We heard these horror stores from Florida, but we never thought we were going to have this kind of thing in Delaware," the man said.
What's worse, Bonnie Siley said, is that the people being vaccinated this weekend have to get a second shot in a matter of weeks.
"Are you going to be back in this line like this?"
After leaving without her husband getting a shot, she said they would try to get vaccinated through a pharmacy instead.
"I’m just so frustrated and disappointed," she said.