ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With bonnets on their heads and bespectacled faces, two young women pretended to be seniors so they could get the coronavirus vaccine, and it seems their ruse may have actually worked at least one time.
Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said the pair was busted when they tried to get their second shot on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center.
“We haven’t had any lack of willing arms to get vaccinated. We also have people faking to be old to be vaccinated. So yesterday we realized a couple of young ladies came dressed up as grannies to get vaccinated for the second time, so I don’t know how they escaped the first time but they came (to get) vaccinated. The bonnets, the gloves, the glasses — the whole thing and they probably were in their 20s,” Pino said.
He’s not sure how or even if the two young women were able to get their first doses but when they showed up Wednesday to complete the series, they presented a valid vaccination card.
“There were some issues with their IDs and their driver’s license, but I don’t know all the details about them,” Pino said.
He added that the vaccinators noticed they “looked funny” and stopped them right before they could get the shots.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was called after they were caught to process a report on the situation and issue trespass warnings for the two women. Deputies said their real names were on the vaccination cards but their date of births didn’t match. One woman was 34 and the other was 44.
There are no charges pending from the sheriff’s office.
There will also be an investigation to determine if they actually received the first shot.
“So part of the findings that we have to do is were they really vaccinated by us, when (they were) vaccinated, what happened, what date, what time to try to figure out if there are any holes, loopholes, in the process that are allowing people to do that,” Pino said.
Had the women entered their correct birthdates when registering for an appointment, they would have been blocked by the system since they aren’t old enough but Pino said they could have used fake information or gotten help from someone who works at the site.
“People get really, really apprehensive about getting the vaccine, ‘I want it now.’ And some people get really emotional. So I also can see that someone had said, ‘OK, we don’t have that many people, yeah, go by.’ So anything could have happened,” Pino said.
While he knows there’s a lot anxiety as residents wonder when they’ll be able to get inoculated, he urged patience with the process as those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 get their shots first.
“It’s kind of hilarious to a sense, but it’s also a disappointing because they are taking the place that someone else could, in much higher need, could have had that place,” he said.
Pino noted that security has recently been increased at the site, where about 2,500 shots per day are administered to those 65 and older as well as health care workers.
“We have seen an increase in weird things happening and people walking in suspicious, people monitoring the site. So that’s why we requested additional security that was provided and we installed cameras and other security features in the vaccine room,” Pino said.
Nurses have also been approached as they’re leaving their shift at 10 p.m. by strangers asking if they have any extra shots to spare.
And Wednesday’s incident isn’t the first time an ineligible resident has tried to trick their way into getting one of the coveted shots.
“So there have been a few. They’re all different and creative. There was another individual that had the same name of his father, came with a card but different birthday. But, you know, we have access to a lot of information. So we can quickly verify who is who, where they were born, you know, anything that you can imagine, we have access to,” Pino said.
Still, he knows the two young women aren’t the only ones to slip through the cracks.
“I think it’s higher than we suspect, to be honest with you. As we are engaged in this process and trying to move people quickly, some people could squeeze in, so it’s probably higher than we suspect,” Pino said.
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