PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County and the Florida Department of Health, a state agency, began distribution of the latest 10,000 COVID vaccines sent to the county on Tuesday. The vaccinations are being done by appointment only.
“We’re excited about our partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, they’re a state agency and we’re county government,” Pinellas County Public Information Manager David Connor said. “We’re working together here for a good cause.”
Connor said the department plans to disperse the 10,000 vaccines at four locations from Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, but they are not releasing exactly where because they do not want anyone showing up without an appointment.
Those who have been able to make an appointment are given an address to report to. The four locations are in are Pinellas Park, Largo, Palm Harbor and St. Petersburg.
Other counties have tried drive-through vaccination sites but that is not happening in Pinellas County.
“You can drive to them and you can walk to them if you’re close enough, but you’ll need to get out of your car,” Connor said. “You’ll need to walk into the building and be prepared to stay 15 minutes after your appointment time [for nurses to be able to] watch you for adverse reactions.”
People who received the vaccine at the Pinellas Park location Tuesday told 8 On Your Side the experience was flawless and said they were in and out in under half an hour.
“This was so well done and so well planned that it made it easy,” Patricia Hackett said as she was leaving her first dose vaccine appointment.
“It’s like, whoa, I finally won a lottery!” Joyce Schwartz, who also got the vaccine Tuesday, said.
Schwartz said it’s a highly efficient process with a golf cart driven by firefighters willing to bring you from the parking lot to the building, which is about a three-minute walk.
But with 250,000 people in Pinellas County in the 65 and older age group, and only 10,000 vaccines to give this week, supply isn’t meeting demand.
“When are more vaccines coming?” 8 On Your Side’s Christine McLarty asked Tom Iovino, the spokesman for the Florida Department of Health.
“That’s going to be a question for the state,” Iovino said.
8 On Your Side took that question to the county as well. They responded that they’re wondering the same thing.
“We don’t have control. It comes from the state, as it’s released by the federal government. What we are controlling here is that our distribution system and registration system is in place to distribute the vaccine efficiently and safely,” Connor said.
Hackett, who got the vaccine Tuesday, said coronavirus extinguished her family’s social life.
“I’ve had Thanksgiving dinner on the patio, Christmas dinner on the patio by myself so I could wave to [my kids and grandkids through the window,]” she said.
She said she’s hopeful the vaccine will re-ignite her social life.
“[I’ll be able to] meet friends, visit with my family and have dinner with them again!” Hackett said.
If you don’t have an appointment to get the vaccine yet, officials suggest you pre-register. To do that, go to the CDR Health Patient Portal. We’re told it takes about 15 minutes to create an account and notifications about new appointments will be sent out in there as they become available.
“If you can’t [get the vaccine through the county distribution,] you can also try through your local health care provider,” Iovino said. “Also through pharmacies as they come online, so keep your eyes peeled and look for opportunities.”