PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Florida Department of Health data shows Tampa Bay area counties have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates of senior citizens in the state.
80% of Florida’s federal allocation of the COVID vaccine has been put into arms, and more than 40% of Florida seniors have received at least one dose of vaccine.
But the ABC Action News I-Team has uncovered the number is below 30% in parts of our area.
“It’ll be three days, 3,000 shots to seniors 65 and older,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference Thursday announcing the opening of a new COVID-19 vaccination clinic at a Pinellas Park over-55 community.
“We’ve done about 42% of all seniors have gotten a shot in the state of Florida. That’s one of the highest percentages in the country, but in Pinellas County, we’re at 35% right now,” DeSantis said.
Eight of the nine counties with the lowest vaccination rates are in west central and southwest Florida, according to data displayed on this website.
The Tampa Bay area’s largest counties, Hillsborough and Pinellas, both come in at below 40%.
Highlands County has only a 23% senior vaccination rate.
That’s not surprising to Mike Novello, who drove from Manatee County to University Mall in Tampa last week to get his first dose of vaccine.
“I went from line to line to line, only to have to wait five and a half hours for a 10:15 appointment,” he said.
He says he has not been able to schedule his second shot.
“The public is not able to discern what to do,” Novello said.
Leon County, home to our state capitol, has vaccinated more than 60% of seniors.
“It shouldn’t be that some counties are vaccinating more than 64% of their seniors and others are at less than 25% that’s just too big of a disparity,” said USF Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi.
He used health department data to make maps that help visualize trends.
Salemi says that given the public’s demand for vaccine in the Tampa Bay area, he doesn’t believe the discrepancies are due to a reluctance of seniors to get vaccinated.
“I don’t know how the doses that are distributed from the federal government to Florida are then being delivered on a county-level basis. So I can’t tell you whether those lower percentages are due to supply issues,” said Salemi.
But that’s something Florida’s governor says he plans to fix.
“Some of those areas that have a lot of seniors that their percentage is below the state average, we want to surge more doses and everything there,” DeSantis said.
“If he deems this is due to supply issues, that can easily be rectified and more doses can be sent to those counties that are having a problem vaccinating their seniors,” Salemi said.
Here are resources to help you schedule a vaccination appointment.
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