COVID-19 vaccine distribution focuses on 65+ population

Posted at 10:52 PM, Dec 30, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Right now, the vaccination effort against COVID-19 is focusing on those 65 years and older across the state.

The Florida Department of Health said all county health departments have received the vaccine.

County health departments are each communicating their own plans for distribution.

“As of this last week, individual counties across the state have begun to kind of do their own thing, and that’s not a bad thing,” said Jay Wolfson, a senior associate dean at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine. “Because what’s happening in Osceola and Lee counties, in terms of demographics and disease spread, is very different than what happens in Sarasota or Hillsborough or Pinellas just because the dynamics of the population.”

Wolfson said the challenge will lie in having a clearly articulated distribution plan for each county, educating and reaching out to high-risk populations, and accommodating transportation.

“Listen to what your county is telling you to do because each county in the immediate future is likely to be doing something different,” said Wolfson.

Manatee and Sarasota Counties each received several thousand doses this week and started vaccinating those 65 years and older by appointment. The slots quickly filled up.

“The best thing we can do to suggest to people is please be patient, please be patient. We expect vaccines every week, and we will be doing clinics constantly. Our goal is to vaccinate our community as quickly and as effectively as we can,” said Steve Huard, the public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.

Pasco County announced it plans to start vaccinations Thursday by appointment, with a drive-through. Hernando County also plans to start vaccinating seniors on Monday by appointment.

Citrus County will have two drive-thru clinics from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., or until supplies last, on Thursday, Jan. 7 and Saturday, Jan. 9.

Pinellas County plans to start its effort next week, with a reservation system expected to launch Monday.

Meanwhile, Hillsborough, Highlands and Polk Counties are preparing.

The governor said vaccines will be available to seniors through county health departments and hospitals.

“The Florida state emergency response team asked hospitals to create and immediately begin executing plans to vaccinate seniors as soon as they complete vaccinating their front line workers,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

The governor said they feel the supply is starting to arrive at a good rhythm, underscoring the focus on seniors.

“Whether you go to a county vaccination site or hospital, the COVID19 vaccine supply is still limited. We don’t have enough vaccine currently on hand for all four million-plus senior citizens in the state of Florida. Now we will get there, but it’s not going to happen overnight, so please be patient,” he said.

The governor’s office says as of Dec. 30, more than 175,000 Floridians have received a vaccine for COVID-19.

You can find more information on each county’s plans here and through your local health department.