by SC Guest Contributor Barbara Joy Cooley
Florida has a problem with distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccines. According to the CDC on January 14, about 1,680,200 have been distributed in Florida. But as of that date, only 705,398 people have been given the vaccines in Florida – and that’s just their first dose. That’s a rate of 3,284 per 100,000.
According to the Florida Department of Health, as of January 11, 2021 more than 11,000 individuals will have been vaccinated at Lee County sites open to the public (i.e., does not include sites for health care staff). That’s a rate of 1,428 per 100,000
Although vaccines are supposed to be available to Florida citizens over 65 years old, it seems that half of the vaccines are being held back for some reason that has not been explained. Meanwhile, it is very difficult to schedule a vaccine appointment in Lee County where citizens must call a phone number at a specific time frame on a certain day. The phone banks, managed by the state vendor Tidal Basin Group, have been woefully unable to handle the number of calls. Most callers have been met with busy signals and dropped calls, in spite of repeatedly calling for 30 to 60 minutes, before finally receiving a recorded message saying that all appointments have been filled.
Collier County, on the other hand, is using online reservation systems. The Collier County health department is using EventBrite.com, and the Naples hospital system is using their own web site to periodically schedule vaccinations, as they become available. Those systems, too, have been overwhelmed by the demand. However, those systems do not waste so much of the user’s time.
At the Lee Health hospital system this week, the occupancy rate has hovered around 96 percent and the daily positivity rate (number of COVID-19 tests that are positive) for tests in the Lee Health system has ranged from 21.9 percent to 36 percent.
Some immunizing of over-65 patients is being done in the Lee Health system, where members of the Lee Physicians Group (LPG) can refer their patients to be vaccinated at LPG primary care locations, according to a Lee Health memorandum dated January 6. Walk ins are not accepted; appointments are required.