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Monday, October 25, 2021

Alachua County leaders give update on COVID-19 vaccination plan

Local leaders and health experts answered questions about vaccination effort in the county

J. Evans, a Gainesville Police Department officer, directs traffic into Malcom Randall VA Medical Center on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. A long line of traffic formed outside the hospital as Alachua County residents 65-years-old and older waited to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
J. Evans, a Gainesville Police Department officer, directs traffic into Malcom Randall VA Medical Center on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. A long line of traffic formed outside the hospital as Alachua County residents 65-years-old and older waited to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Alachua County healthcare workers continue to vaccinate residents over the age of 65, but it will still be several months before the vaccine is widely available to those under the age requirement.

County leaders met again Monday evening to discuss the mass COVID-19 vaccination effort and respond to public concerns about vaccine scheduling and availability.

More than 12,000 residents over the age of 65 have received vaccines as of Monday evening, Alachua County Health Department Administrator Paul Myers said.

After working its way down from vaccinating those 90 and older, the Alachua County Health Department is currently calling residents between the age of 75-80 to set up appointments.

As of Sunday, the county is ranked third among Florida counties that have distributed first doses to residents and 15th in total vaccinations. About 27,000 county residents have been vaccinated out of more than 1.4 million Floridians total, which is up from 12,000 vaccinations in the county two weeks ago. Florida has only given out about half of its available doses, according to the Tampa Bay Times

UF Health has worked alongside the health department to deliver most of the 27,000 total vaccines in the county, Myers said. The majority of UF Health vaccines given out in the last three weeks have gone to residents over 65, UF Health director Dr. David Nelson said. UF is currently scheduling 12,000 more appointments.

“It's going to be another couple of months before we start to get big doses of vaccines,” Nelson said.

The health department is vaccinating about 850 residents each day, Myers said. He expects this number to double once incoming vaccine doses catch up to demand. Typically, county hospitals do not know when they are receiving their next shipments ahead of one day’s notice.

County residents who are 65 or older can sign up to receive a vaccine through the county’s online portal or by calling 352-334-8810. Mobility impaired residents can get vaccinated at home through the health department, Myers said. So far, about 100 residents have received at-home vaccinations.

The health department is currently testing an online scheduling system that should be live in the next two weeks, Myers said.

Mobility impaired residents can get vaccinated at home through the health department, Myers said. So far, about 100 residents have received at-home vaccinations.

“I continue to ask our community’s patience with the roll-out of the vaccine,” Myers said.

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Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said residents can help with the vaccination efforts by signing up older people who are having difficulty signing up themselves. Florida seniors have been struggling with vaccine registration because of technology hurdles and the overwhelming registration process, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

“If there are folks out there looking to help,” Poe said, “then that’s one way you can serve your community — trying to identify those folks within your circle that might be missing the signup opportunity.”

North Florida Regional Hospital has vaccinated about 3,000 healthcare workers and will partner with the health department next week to help vaccinate those who are over 65 years old, Hospital Director Eric Lawson said.

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System has administered about 14,370 vaccines, with the majority of the doses given at Gainesville’s Malcom Randall VA Medical Center or the Lake City center, Director Tom Wisnieski said. 

The VA, which peaked its distribution at 1,763 vaccinations in one single day, has distributed its entire first batch of the vaccine and awaits its next shipment. Wisnieska said he expects the VA to receive 13,000 vaccines each week for the foreseeable future.

Contact Jack Prator at jprator@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @jack_prator.

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Jack Prator

Jack is a UF journalism sophomore covering the Gainesville City Commission. If he's not in a hammock at the plaza he is probably watching the Queen's Gambit for the fifth time. 


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