SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – With Seminole County leaders set to receive a shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, leaders there said they’re confident that they can distribute the shots in a safe and efficient way.
Seminole County Chairman Lee Constantine, Seminole County Fire Department Chief Otto Drozd and Florida Department of Health in Seminole Health Officer Donna Walsh spoke at a news conference Monday afternoon to provide the community with the latest on its distribution plans.
Leaders reiterated calls from the governor and federal officials to focus first on vaccinating frontline health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities, who are most at risk of developing serious complications from the deadly respiratory illness.
“Those who are 75 years of age and older, make up about 6.8% of our total number of cases here in Seminole, however 73% of our deaths. So if you look at the same, you know, with our folks who are associated with our long-term care facilities, nursing homes, there’s about 6.8% of the total number of cases associated with those but they make up over 60% of our deaths. So, by far, this is our most vulnerable population,” Walsh said.
That’s why she said those long-term care residents will be included in priority group 1A to be among the first to get vaccinated by teams from Walgreens and CVS. Others who are at the front of the line include health department workers, EMTs, paramedics and health care workers.
In group 1B is law enforcement officers and other essential workers. Those 65 and older will be vaccinated in group 1C, she said.
Though AdventHealth Orlando and four other hospital systems across the state have received their initial shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, the Seminole County Department of Health is slated to get its first shipment Tuesday evening with 8,100 doses of the Moderna formula.
“And so, you know, what we will do with that vaccine initially is to vaccinate our teams, our vaccination teams, EMTs, paramedics and all those who will be on those teams once we receive it, and then we’ll stand ready in the event that CVS and Walgreens ask for support to go into our (long-term care) facilities alongside them,” Walsh said.
She cautioned that things can change depending on whether the shipment arrives on time and whether the pharmacies need help.
Drozd said the men and women at the Seminole County Fire Department will receive training within the next few days on how to administer the vaccine. Those strike team members will be inoculated themselves before they begin giving the shots to others.
“I can tell you the personnel on the strike teams will have to have the vaccine in order to administer the vaccine in the point of dispensing. I can also tell you that having gone through COVID and witnessing the impact to communities, families and more specifically the number of fire and EMS personnel that have succumbed to COVID, I will be first in line to get the vaccine, if given the opportunity,” Drozd said.
He added that the department is ready to help in whatever way possible.
“I am confident that we will meet the challenge and overcome any adversity. As we move through this vaccination phase, rest assured that in this endeavor, as with all others, the Seminole County Fire Department stands prepared to serve our community at its greatest time of need,” Drozd said.
Walsh urged patience in the coming weeks because the situation is so fluid. She said the county has storage capabilities, personnel and everything else needed to start the vaccination process.
“We have a lot of help and so we’re very confident that we’re going to be able to provide the vaccine as quickly as possible but as safely and effective as possible as well,” she said.
Though vaccine news provides a glimmer of hope from residents who may have grown tired of social distancing and other pandemic precautions, Constantine said this is not the time to let up on those efforts.
“So we’ve really got to make sure that we are doing everything we can as we start these vaccinations not let our guards down, ensure that we’re taking care of our loved ones,” he said.