A long line of vaccine seekers stretched down the driveway and onto the street outside the Border View YMCA Thursday, as 16- to 50-year-olds became eligible for COVID-19 shots.
The YMCA was one of two vaccination stations run by San Diego County that was offering the Pfizer vaccine without an appointment -- the Moderna shot has not been approved for people under 18.
“One of the things we know about COVID-19 is it impacted, particularly, the Latino community, said San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas, who added that the age group most impacted was 29- to 55-year-olds. "We were the hardest hit."
Vargas told NBC 7 that the county’s decision to open the appointment-free sites had a lot to do with making sure people who had language barriers or didn’t have access to computers to schedule appointments could still get shots.
“Everybody can talk about equity, but equity is what this is all about, right?" Vargas said. "You come to a place, its safe, near your home, in your neighborhood, and you see a lot of familiar faces and you’re able to get your vaccine."
There was a price to pay for not having an appointment, though, at least at the YMCA in Otay Mesa West. Several people said they waited between two and three hours to get one of the 300 doses.
“It’s been a while -- about two and a half hours -- but patience is a virtue and eventually you can get it done,” said 20-year-old Eric Lagman as he neared the front of the line.
Patience wasn’t needed as much at the other South Bay location offering walk-up vaccine appointments. Only a handful of people waited outside the Mountainview Education Center, about eight miles north.
NBC7 asked Vargas why the crowds were so different.
“We’ve given out so much information about wait your turn, wait your turn, and wait for the phase, that I think a lot of folks are like, 'Wait, is today the day?' " Vargas said. "So we want to remind folks that today, if you’re 16 and older. you’re able to go to any one of these sites and actually get a vaccine where you can just walk in.”