POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As the vaccine rollout remains slower than expected, local entities are finding ways to work together and get as many vaccines out as possible in Polk County.
“We felt absolutely obligated to step in and provide whatever assistance we could. The faster we do this, the more efficiently we do this, the more we provide comfort to patients that we’re doing this and screen them appropriately, I think, the better this will go,” said Dr. Hal Escowitz, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Lakeland Regional Health.
The Florida Department of Health in Polk County announced this week it is partnering with local hospitals including Lakeland Regional Health, Bartow Regional Medical Center, Winter Haven Hospital, and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital to administer COVID-19 vaccines to high risk senior citizens.
Dr. Escowitz said Lakeland Regional Health was given 1,000 doses from the health department this week.
It administered 750 doses Wednesday and Thursday to adults over the age of 65 at a site in Lakeland.
The eligible recipients had signed up for the vaccine through the health department’s phone line (863-298-7500) and online registration.
The phone line is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional weekend hours have
also been added for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Currently, over 43,000 individuals are registered in the portal. Over 37,000 of those are 65 years of age and older, according to Fla. Dept. of Health in Polk County spokesperson Nicole Riley.
“Let’s get it over with!” said Peggy Snow, an energetic 90-year old resident at Lake Morton Plaza as she awaited a vaccine.
Approximately 50 residents and staff took part in the first round of vaccines at one of Lakeland’s largest independent and assisted living facility Thursday.
They received the Pfizer vaccine through a partnership with Walgreen’s.
“I think it’s a safe thing. I didn’t think so to begin with but I’ve done more research and I now feel safe about it. Beside that – my daughter said I had to,” said Snow.
Other residents acknowledge it was easier for them to get the vaccine than other members of the community in their age group.
“If we could make the process a little bit more efficient, it would be great because I understand there are a lot of people that are not able to sign up. There are people who don’t have the internet capabilities to register for a particular site,” said 71-year-old resident George Williams.