Floridians still traveling miles from home to score COVID-19 shot

Influx of supply expected to end vaccine travelers
Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 10:03:21-05

TAMPA, Fla- — At the recently opened FEMA-supported vaccine site in Tampa, COVID-19 seekers go through an assembly line of sorts to get their dose in the arm. Here, supply is actually exceeding demand.

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the site is using about 2,500 doses per day of the 3,000 it was allocated.

Across the state vaccine supply is, for the first time, becoming bountiful with more than 400,000 doses shipped here each work now according to the Governor.


But despite more vaccines and more sites offering them, we found Floridians still making treks across the state just to ensure their dose.

One Jupiter man made the trip to Jacksonville last week because his wife “was hounding me to get it,” he told us over the phone recently.

Another woman shared in a Facebook group dedicated to helping people find shots, how she made the trip from Orlando to Jacksonville to get her first shot.

Richard and Lauren Smith also made the nearly four hour long trek from Pinellas County to Duval County recently.

“We have to grasp at any straw that we can find,” said Richard who is immunocompromised. The 63- year-old has kidney disease, half his lung function and requires a series of daily meds and breathing treatments.

When the Governor opened vaccine eligibility to people under 65 deemed medically vulnerable, the only appointment he and his wife could find online took them north.

“By the time I got there, this was all that was left so I just figured it’s worth it, his health is worth it,” said his wife.

The Smiths’ decision to drive to Jacksonville and spend their first night in a hotel since the start of the pandemic was also based on their concerns about the state’s chaotic rollout plan.


“It’s safer to go someplace where we feel that we have a reasonable chance to get the shot now,” Richard said.

Their story and others like them reveal the desperate measures some Floridians are still willing to take after a vaccine rollout plan fraught with a lack of communication, last-minute decisions, and overall confusion.

“The distribution plan did lack a plan initially, it’s getting less bad. In fact,it’s getting better,” said University of South Florida public health policy expert Dr. Jay Wolfson. Wolfson points to two reasons he believes ‘better’ is here.

“We have more product being produced by not two but three manufacturers. The second thing, we now know not just a day in advance but a week or two weeks in advance how much product is going to go where. Up until just a couple of weeks ago, the health departments, Publix’s and the CVS’s didn’t know how much they were going to get the next day. So now the distribution plan is augmented by a greater degree of certainty about how much and when,” Wolfson said.

With supply up, eligibility for the vaccine is widening across the state. During a press conference on Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis indicated that eligibility may open for everyone as soon as next month without having to travel very far to get it.

As for just how many doses of the vaccine have gone to waste through spoilage or getting broken in transit, according to a spokesperson with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the total number is less than 4500 doses which means 99.9% of doses have been administered without issues.