OCALA, Fla. – AdventHealth Ocala leased two storefronts and a main area at the Paddock Mall in Ocala to expedite coronavirus vaccinations and make it more convenient for seniors in Marion County.
“I feel like I won the lotto,” Sherry Prowdley said.
That’s how Sherry Prowdley felt as she lined up to get the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccine.
“You feel isolated because you’re scared to go anywhere and do anything and you don’t want to get sick,” Sherry Prowdley said. “I’m excited that I’ll be protected and maybe be around people again.”
Sherry Prowdly and her husband, Tom Prowdly, said the Paddock Mall vaccination site was convenient and quick. Several stations were set up starting outside with check-in then moving inside for a quick Q&A. Then residents are moved to another storefront next door where the vaccinations are given. Finally, they wait in the main area for about 15 minutes to be monitored for any reactions.
So far, the county’s health department said a little more than 17,000 people in Marion County have been vaccinated. The county’s health department said it receives about 3,000 doses a week.
“We can give anywhere between 500 and 1,000 vaccines a day. That’s based upon not only flow, but the amount of vaccines we can get from the state and the federal government, and that number fluctuates based on availability,” said AdventHealth Ocala’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Torres. “We anticipate this is going to be a long haul.”
A long haul to get the county’s 400,000 residents vaccinated.
After word got out about the new vaccination site, several people including the Franklin family showed up with hopes of getting the vaccine, only to leave frustrated. Appointments are required.
“We tried three or four different places... the rest of the places you have to sign up online. It’s frustrating and we haven’t been able to get in,” said Jesse Franklin.
In December 2020, the Department of Health in Marion County opened up registration for 50,000 residents over 65 years old and are using that list to set up appointments. A process, they said, is more fair.
“We’ve seen not a lot of success with first-come, first-served process. You have long lines, that’s not a good situation to put seniors in waiting for hours, then running out of vaccines and getting turned away,” FDOH Marion County Administrator Mark Lander said.
With the first dose of the vaccine, Tom Prowdley feels they are a step closer to being protected against the virus.
“It was very easy, the shot was nothing. I hardly felt it,” Tom Prowdley said. “I’m excited, so I can actually be with other people. I’m used to being alone.”
AdventHealth’s lease with the Paddock Mall goes through July, but mall officials said they can extend or end the lease as needed.
The county’s health department said it will continue to use the mall as a vaccination site when the eligibility requirements are extended to the public.
With Publix and other federal health centers getting their own batches of the vaccine across the county, Lander said he is confident vaccinations will ramp up.