PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — 1,900 Pinellas County nursing home residents and employees just became among the first in the nation to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Pinellas County is one of just two counties in the state to receive some of the first doses for long-term care facilities.
ManorCare Health Services in Palm Harbor was one of the first places to receive the vaccine. Staff members tell ABC Action News there’s a sense of hope for the first time in months. More than 200 staff members and residents received the vaccine Wednesday at ManorCare Palm Harbor.
13 nursing homes across Pinellas County received vaccines Wednesday from STRIKE team members delivering coolers full of vials.
Dr. Mark Gloth, ProMedica’s Senior Care Chief Medical Officer, says when the vaccine arrived everyone was emotional. “We were like kids on Christmas morning. This is so exciting for all of us,” he explained.
70-year-old Cynthia Mayes was among the first to get it.
Many long-term care facilities are working to educate staff and patients about the importance of the voluntary vaccine. ManorCare says 100% of its residents and employees are opting in.
Su Suriano, ManorCare Palm Harbor’s Administrator says it didn’t take a lot of convincing. “It is such an important day for us because for the last 10-11 months it’s been devastating to see what we’ve seen in the facilities,” she said.
ManorCare staff says they were lucky to not have any residents test positive for COVID-19, but the company owns several other nursing homes nationwide that haven’t been as fortunate.
“We’ve had 13 staff members pass away and close to 2,000 of our residents die over the last 9 months. It’s been devastating,” Gloth added.
Pinellas County received 10,700 vaccines which will be given as a first dose to long-term care residents and staff. They expect to receive another shipment of the same amount in a few weeks to provide the required second dose.
“We all believe that this is the turning point. I think there’s still some work ahead of us, but this is definitely the starting point for us all,” Suriano elaborated.
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County plans to have STRIKE teams deliver vaccinations to all 68 nursing homes in Pinellas County over the next 5 days.