How Seminole County uses Florida COVID-19 data to determine what areas need more vaccines

Orange County lost access to vaccine data by zip code earlier this week

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – After Orange County’s government lost access to vaccination data broken down by zip code this week, News 6 is learning other counties also don’t have access, including Seminole County, where the Emergency Manager Alan Harris said the county government itself doesn’t need the data because it’s easily accessible through the Seminole County branch of the Florida Department of Health.

“The access doesn’t affect us at all,” Harris said. “If we need the data, if we need to know a zip code, how many vaccines we got in a specific zip code, we ask the Department of Health and they provide it to us.”

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Harris said a representative with the Department of Health in Seminole County is inside the Seminole EOC, which has been opened since the beginning of the pandemic. There, the partnership between the Department of Health in Seminole County and Seminole County government makes it easy to share that data.

According to officials in Orange County, it was Orange County government who lost access to the vaccination data by zip code after earlier this week the county released color-coded maps showing vaccination rates.

“We were trying to be as transparent as we can,” said Orlando Mayor Demings at a news conference earlier this week.

However, News 6 is learning the Department of Health in Orange County still has that access. County health officials using that data to determine which neighborhoods they need to step up vaccination efforts.

“We did originally ask them to tell us by percentage how many specific individuals we hit per zip code and what that did is we would target certain areas of our community, so we would set up a vaccine site in a specific segment of that population,” Harris added in Seminole County.

News 6 asked Harris if he had access to that data, if it was releasable to the public.

“We can’t release that data, we don’t know it. It would be the Florida Department of Health and you can get it through a public records request,” Harris said.

However, News 6 has been asking for this data from the Florida Department of Health since January with no response, following up with individual county branches of the Department of Health since then. Again, this week News 6 asked for the data in each county, many including Seminole County saying they have to clear it from Tallahassee before that data is released.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis was questioned on why the vaccination data by zip code is not being released, he said that’s not an issue that would reach his desk.

“You’ll have to ask the Department of Health,” DeSantis said. “Only certain issues get to my desk, that is not something that would reach my desk.”