Drive-thru vaccine site permanently reopens in The Villages

DeSantis: Florida continues to put seniors first in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

A drive-thru vaccine distribution site in The Villages reopened Thursday -- and for good this time.
A drive-thru vaccine distribution site in The Villages reopened Thursday -- and for good this time.

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – A drive-thru vaccine distribution site in The Villages reopened Thursday -- and for good this time.

The site first opened last month and was so successful, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, that officials reopened it permanently, with the help of more vaccine doses from the federal government.

DeSantis was in The Villages on Monday to make the reopening announcement as part of Florida’s efforts to continue vaccinating seniors against COVID-19.

[TRENDING: Missing toddlers pulled from Fla. pond | 30s alert! Cold front blasts into Central Fla. | How to register for vaccine in Fla.]

“Coming up today, tomorrow, Wednesday, the deliveries will total about 307,000 initial doses, that’s about a 40,000-dose increase and because of that increase, we are able to announce that beginning this Thursday, that drive-thru site will be able to be open again. But this time it’s going to be a permanent vaccination site,” DeSantis said.

The governor said last week that, on average, Florida administered about 375,000 doses a week since the rollout began. He also said last week that Florida can finally expect to see an increase in the number of vaccines delivered to the state. Florida had previously received around 260,000 first doses per week, according to the governor. When addressing the increase in Florida’s allocation, DeSantis said the state will receive 307,000 first doses from the federal government.

“We’re going to feed 4,000 doses, initial doses, to that site on a permanent basis as long as our supply remains what it is,” DeSantis said.

To schedule an appointment at the golf cart-friendly drive-thru, visit SumterFL.saferstart.net.

“We’re budgeting this amount to continue to keep The Villages operating with the drive-thru site, the seniors like it, when the weather gets a little warmer, maybe we’ll see more golf carts, I didn’t see a lot of golf carts the other day, because quite frankly, it was probably about 50 degrees outside. And so as the weather gets a little bit better, you will have the opportunity to do the golf carts as well. So I’m excited about the progress we can make in The Villages with this site,” the governor said.

Carolyn Vandeven was one of the seniors that had an appointment last month when the site closed. On Thursday, she was able to get her first dose when the site reopened.

“I was put on hold seems like a long wait to get it scheduled again because you don’t know what’s happening, so it was a little scary,” Vandeven said.

According to DeSantis, there are more than 300 vaccination sites statewide. Since vaccinations began in December, more than 1.7 million people have been vaccinated in Florida, according to the latest daily vaccine report from the Florida Department of Health. Of those to receive vaccines, more than 314,000 people have completed their two-dose series.

With more vaccines on the way, the governor said his focus will continue to be on Florida’s seniors.

A similar site to the one in The Villages will also be opening at Sun City Center, a large active 55-and-older community near Tampa, the governor also announced on Monday. For seniors who can’t make it to one of the drive-thru sites, the governor said the state will begin setting aside about 1,500 initial doses for homebound seniors this week.

Florida is currently vaccinating only four priority groups: Health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, people 65 or older and those deemed at high-risk for the virus. The health care group includes first responders, such as firefighters and paramedics as well as Department of Health staff.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter and go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.