How Orange County is preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Freezers purchased for storage

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With talks of a COVID-19 vaccine being available as soon as by the end of this year, leaders in Orange County are making plans and arrangements for how the shots will be administered when the time comes.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday that the county purchased a refrigerator, freezer and ultra-cold freezer for $67,000 that will be used to store 150,000 doses of the vaccines until they’re ready to be used.

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“Obviously the vaccine has to be kept cold at some pretty cold temperatures and when it comes time to give the vaccines out, our health services (department) wanted to be prepared and we want to serve as a model, really, for how to go about doing that by working with different partnerships within the community,” Demings said.

Deputy County Administrator of Public Safety Danny Banks didn’t provide too many specifics, but did say there’s already a plan in place to create a network of distribution sites for members of the public to visit.

He said certain populations, including first responders, health care workers and long-term care facility residents who are more at risk for contracting the deadly respiratory virus will likely receive their dose or doses before the general public does.

He cautioned that it could be a lengthy process, although a timeline is unknown at this point.

“One thing I want to caution everybody on is, you know, even if we get hundreds of thousands of doses at one time, it’s certainly going to take some time before we will be able to offer those doses to vaccinate our entire population, even at a rate of, say, 10,000 vaccinations per day it’s going to take some time to administer those vaccinations to our entire population,” Banks said.

The Florida Department of Health has already released a draft plan of distribution that outlines a three-phased approach that would prioritize certain groups before most healthy and non-at-risk residents get the vaccine in the third and final phase.

AdventHealth is conducting a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a page on its website dedicated to answering questions about how the vaccine will be distributed.

Talks of the vaccine came Thursday as Orange County surpassed two grim milestones: 50,000 COVID-19 cases and 600 deaths.

Even as the overall positivity rate and incidence rate among children has slowly increased in recent weeks, Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said there are still plenty of hospital beds, ventilators and intensive care unit beds available.