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I must admit, when City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson told me the city wanted to become a COVID-19 vaccination site, I was immediately filled with fear.

It was late January, and newspaper covers were dominated by depressing tails of aging seniors unable to make vaccination appointments due to overwhelmed phone lines and failing websites. I was afraid our city would be unable to handle the crushing number of requests we would undoubtedly receive.

Leigh Ann demonstrated true leadership, explaining why we must step through our fear and deliver as many vaccinations as we could. She acknowledged my concerns: we might have residents that wouldn’t get through and we would probably have to turn away residents who were qualified due to a lack of inventory.  It might mean that residents would be angry and they might call us failures, but we had to be willing to look past that. As Leigh Ann convinced me, the benefit of being able to vaccinate 50 people from our community every day far outweighed the risks of not running a perfect vaccination site or not being able to meet demand.  The City Manager was right, if we save a single life, any negative backlash would have been well worth it.

I’m happy to say that none of my fears came to fruition.  There was no backlash — but there were a lot of happy, vaccinated residents! The City of Wilton Manors has vaccinated 540-plus people over the last few weeks and I have not heard a single complaint. In fact, my inbox and phone have been flooded with kind words and appreciation from countless happy residents.

One thing most people didn’t realize is that our Wilton Manors vaccination site has been run 100% by volunteers.  While you may have recognized a familiar face from our city staff at the Richardson Park vaccination site, like Dio or Penny, they were there on their days off volunteering their time to serve their city.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the volunteers who made this possible!

The City is now delivering the second shot to those members of our community who had been vaccinated in the last few weeks.  While we are no longer accepting appointments for first-time vaccinations, there are a growing number of locations here in South Florida where you can get a vaccination.  For the latest list of locations offering vaccinations, you can visit Broward County's website.

Thank you, again, to all the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make our Wilton Manors City Park vaccination site a success.  I am eager for the day when we can all come together, in person, in community, as one. The efforts of these volunteers have brought us one step closer to that!

- Chris Caputo  

Wilton Manors City Commissioner