Seminole, Osceola leaders discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans

Preps have been underway for months, leaders say

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – There is promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon but Central Florida emergency management leaders said there are also plenty of unanswered questions.

Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris said he doesn’t know which company’s shot will be approved, how many doses the state will get or what storage will look like for the vaccine.

He said he and his team are doing what they can to prepare for the unknown.

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“We did a full-scale exercise using the flu vaccine, identified some gaps and purchased some equipment to fill those gaps, including an ultra-cold freezer, a trailer that will go into transportation to disadvantaged communities and everything from tents to lighting all the way down to a Band-Aid,” Harris said.

Harris said the county spent $40,000 on four ultra-cold freezers to store vaccines that require cold temperatures.

He adds they’re getting ready for anything.

“We have to be prepared because when the state and federal governments say they’re ready and ‘This is how many, can you take them?’ The answer has to be ‘Yes,” Harris said.

Bill Litton is the director of the Osceola County Office of Emergency Management.

He said after a vaccine is approved, which could be as early as mid-December, health care workers, residents in long-term care facilities and first responders would be the first to get it during the first phase of distribution.

Litton said the county is focusing on phase two, which is when they can do mass vaccinations. He said that could happen as early as mid-February.

“We’re working in the next couple of weeks after Thanksgiving [to] start doing some mapping for locations and traffic flow so we already have that drawn up and ready to go,” Litton said.

He said they’re also stocking up on supplies and just waiting for the word.

Litton said, like his counterpart in Seminole County, the challenging part of the job is just being ready for whatever happens.

“For us as planners, it does make us a little leery on that because that’s an open segment, so we’ve been trying to fill out the plan and make that up as much as possible and being flexible as much as possible, too,” Litton said.

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