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Tampa Bay counties prepare to offer COVID-19 vaccine to those 65+

Leaders unsure how many vaccines they'll recieve
Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 11:59:45-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — Florida is paving the way for people age 65 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine. While plans are now in place in Sarasota and Manatee counties, many of our other local counties are still waiting to find out when and how many vaccines they will receive.

Bill Hammond, a resident in Pinellas County, is anxiously waiting to get the vaccine. The 75-year-old, who lives in Largo, says he has battled diabetes for seven decades and has also dealt with heart disease.

“I’ve worked very hard to stay alive for 70 years and because I’m high risk, I’ve also worked hard to stay away from the coronavirus and I would hate for it to lay me out just before the vaccine,” he explained.

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In Pinellas County, officials are working right now on a vaccine distribution plan.

Some of the details for Pinellas County's plan were released Wednesday.

Pasco and Hillsborough Counties are also waiting to find out how many vaccines they’ll receive from the state and when. That, they say, will determine how and where the vaccines are distributed.

Marcus Martin, in Hillsborough County’s Emergency Management Department, says they’re still working out a lot of details but they hope to set up appointment times and open distribution sites within the first week of January.

“We ask that residents understand that the vaccine is not readily available at this time, however, we continue to work on a distribution plan that depends on supplies,” he said.

Citrus and Hernando County leaders tell ABC Action News that they plan to start giving out vaccines next week, and in Citrus County they will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Michael Teng, Associate Professor of Medicine at USF, says vaccinating the nearly 4.4 million Floridians above age 65 will be a major undertaking.

“It’s going to be difficult. You’re going to have to have all of these people come to a centralized facility to get the vaccine,” Teng elaborated. “We’ve only had a couple million people in the country vaccinated when we should have had 20 million by now. So it’s clear it’s not just our state suffering from these logistics issues. It’s nationwide.”

South of Tampa Bay in Lee County, lines of hundreds continue to pack vaccination sites. In Manatee and Sarasota Counties, appointments filled up within hours. We’ve learned seasonal residents will also be eligible to get the vaccine.

“The vaccines are for everyone so there will be no restrictions to it as long as people meet the age requirement,” Martin added.

As counties across Florida scramble to set up vaccination plans, ABC Action News has learned more information should come within the next few days about where the vaccines will be distributed and how you can sign up.

Hammond can’t wait.

“They should have something in place at least to have a way to get on the list or something. I will feel much safer receiving the first and second vaccine,” he explained.

ABC Action News also reached out to the State Department of Health in Tallahassee regarding the vaccine distribution plan. In an email, we were told,

“At this time, a limited amount of COVID-19 vaccines has been received by select County Health Departments. We are currently developing a plan for distribution that meets the requirements of the Governor’s executive order as quickly as possible. As more doses become available, we will be working with our community partners to notify the community when the vaccine is available. More details will be provided on this process as it becomes available.”