Public health experts look at pace of Florida's vaccination efforts as distribution ramps up

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 18:34:40-05

TAMPA, Fla.—Thousands of people have gotten a shot in the arm of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida and in the Tampa Bay area. Public health experts are weighing in on if the state is on track with rolling out the vaccine as distribution continues to ramp up.

“Be patient. We’ve got something we didn’t have last year. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, professor of public health, medicine, and pharmacy at the University of South Florida. “It’s the vaccine. It’s not going to be available right away, but it’s coming.”

It’s been almost a month since the COVID-19 vaccine first started rolling out to healthcare workers in Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Since then, more than 22,000 people have gotten the vaccine in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, about 9,300 in Pacso County, and nearly 7,200 in Polk County.

Overall in the Tampa Bay Area, more than 91,000 people have been vaccinated, with a grand total of more than 440,000 people vaccinated in Florida so far.

ABC Action News asked Dr. Wolfson if Florida is on track or behind when it comes to vaccinating people against COVID-19.

“It’s too hard to tell because we don’t have enough vaccines, we don’t have the strategic plans in place, we’re just kind of getting started,” said Wolfson. “Look, we’ve only been dealing with this virus for 12 months.”

Wolfson reminds all of us that we’ve also had the vaccine in use for only about a month.

“This is going to be some time toward the fall or maybe the end of the year we hope to have enough people vaccinated,” said Wolfson. “We have to have 75 percent of our population vaccinated to achieve what we believe will be herd immunity.”

We’ve all watched as counties stumbled with registration woes during the distribution process. Wolfson explains we’re going to run into bumps along the way, so we need to continue to be patient and be responsible.

“We’ll get there, but it’s only been a month, and these are baby steps,” said Wolfson.