Huffman, Ward update commission on county’s slow, frustrating Moderna rollout

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 1/13/21

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The is working hard to get Moderna COVID-19 vaccines out as fast as possible, but it will be a while before supply meets the demand.

Florida Health Department Clay County …

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Huffman, Ward update commission on county’s slow, frustrating Moderna rollout

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The is working hard to get Moderna COVID-19 vaccines out as fast as possible, but it will be a while before supply meets the demand.

Florida Health Department Clay County administrator Heather Huffman and Emergency Management director John Ward spoke of the struggles and success of the vaccine rollout during the Jan. 12 Board of County Commissioners meeting. BCC members told Huffman and Ward constituents are upset about the rollout, but there’s nothing the county can do about it.

“We have received 3,800 doses at the department and that is it,” Huffman said. “It’s a trickle effect and I want people to be realistic about what this means.”

She said there’s more than 220,000 residents in the county and doses are designated for frontline healthcare workers and people 65 and older, a population that accounts for roughly 35,000 residents. The state mandated those doses go to that population, which shows 3,800 doses for 35,000 people doesn’t add up.

Ward said the county is going to continue to use the internet as its method for making vaccine appointments. There has been some frustration surrounding the online signups because the demand is so high. The appointments disappear in minutes, but Ward said the county is going to be more open about when other appointments are available.

“Just to set expectations...on a weekly basis on Wednesday, late morning to hit that noon news hour, we’re going to do an announcement,” he said. “[Jan. 13], we’re going to do an announcement that we didn’t get any this week and there won’t be any appointments opening up.”

He if the county learns at noon it will receive additional doses, it won’t open the application process until 3 p.m. to give residents a chance to get the information.

The county is currently administering 224 doses a day and is about to double its capacity to 448 – 224 initial doses and 224 second doses. Huffman said hospitals and their smaller-scale partner offices will soon be administering doses to people 65 or older, and CVS, Publix and Walgreens soon will follow suit.

Commissioner Betsy Condon said her constituents make up a large portion of the 65 years or older population and her phone has been ringing constantly with upset residents.

“Clay has done a phenomenal job through the entire COVID-19 crisis and I know you two are trying to get more vaccines for us, and we see that, but it’s frustrating [for the people calling],” Condon said. “Where are the doses?”

Huffman said reports the state is holding back doses is inaccurate. The delays are the federal government’s way of ensuring there are enough doses so that those who already received the first are guaranteed to receive their necessary second inoculation. She said Moderna is catching up quickly which means that the government soon won’t need to hold back doses for the second round.

“The vaccines are coming from the federal government so they can’t be bound to residency, a state, or even the country,” Huffman said. “The State of Florida is getting about 250,000 doses a week. Off that, they have to feed [doses] to CVS and Walgreens [which are handing long-term senior care facilities amongst other things].”

She also said Publix has 22 stores in the state taking doses from that 250,000 and that number is about to rise to 70 stores. So far, no Publix locations in Clay County have been selected. The doses designated to pharmacies won’t draw from the number of vaccines allotted to the county, Huffman said. The state wants as many avenues as possible administering the vaccine to reduce the demands at health departments.

All of the stores will eventually will be administering vaccines to anyone one day. When, however, isn’t clear.

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