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Tampa Bay health experts look at Florida's COVID-19 vaccination pace

"I think we're on the right track."
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Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 18:19:15-04

TAMPA, Fla. — More people in Florida are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Monday, people 60 and older are able to get the shot, adding to the thousands of people in the state who’ve already gotten at least one dose. Tampa Bay area health experts think vaccinations are on the right track.

“I felt great, and I was going to be one of the first people to get it, 60 plus,” said Mike Cerny, who got the vaccine at the Tampa Greyhound Track site Monday. “I was very happy to have the eligibility.”

More and more people lined up at that site to get the COVID-19 vaccine, overjoyed to finally get their turn.

“I was unbelievably relieved. Very, very, very happy,” said Susan Guinn, who got the vaccine.

Distinguished USF Health professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch thinks we’re doing much better with vaccinations than we would have predicted in January.

Looking at data for the Tampa Bay region, on January 20, about a month after vaccinations started, Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) data shows 209,499 people in the area had been vaccinated. As of March 14, data shows 936,047 people were vaccinated in the Tampa Bay area, a big jump about two months later.

“I think they’re going to blow through the over 60 group in seven to 10 days. It’s not going to take very long,” said Unnasch. “I’m thinking by the middle of April to the end of April, they’re going to open up to anybody over the age of 18.”

Dr. Unnasch explains looking at Florida’s numbers, if we stay on pace with vaccinations where we’re at right now, he thinks we could reach herd immunity by August. If that’s ramped up even a little, he says we could get there by mid-July.

“I think the future is actually pretty bright right now,” said Dr. Unnasch. “I think within the next month or so or five weeks or so, it’ll be open to absolutely everybody. I would line up and get it as quickly as you can, and looking at what I’m looking at, we could really be out of this whole thing by the Fourth of July.”

Health experts want people to continue with COVID-19 safety measures like social distancing and wearing masks even if they’ve gotten the vaccine. As more shots go into arms, people around the Tampa Bay area are hopeful to quickly get back to normal.

“I’m looking forward to getting my second dose,” said Cerny. “It makes me feel as if we are moving forward and moving beyond the COVID pandemic.”