OKEECHOBEE – With 500 first doses a week, Okeechobee County health officials are steadily vaccinating local residents.
Interim Health Officer/Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee County Bret Smith said Okeechobee County’s vaccination program is going well with weekly first-dose vaccination pods on Tuesdays at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center, by appointment.
The county is using the state appointment system at my vaccine.fl.gov to make appointments. Anyone over the age of 60 can go online to add their name to the list. Also eligible for vaccination appointments at the county site are school employees over the age of 50, health care personnel with direct patient contact, law enforcement officers over the age of 50 and firefighters over the age of 50.
“My plan is to boost the numbers of vaccines,” he said. “We also plan to get all of the teachers vaccinated.”
The health department may take smaller vaccination pods into under-served communities, he continued. They are also working with homebound seniors to take the vaccine to them.
“We’re trying to get everyone we can covered,” said Smith. “My plan is to get shots in every arm we can.”
Smith said the county had a 5.19% positivity rate for the past two weeks. A total of 5,208 persons have been vaccinated, including 4,926 over the age of 65. Based on the most recent census information available, that means about 58% of the county’s population age 65 and older has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Starting March 15, the eligibility range drops to age 60.
“The team out there has worked very, very well,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs. “We keep getting positive comments about the work, and how the flow is. There’s been a whole change of attitude.”
Mitch Smeykal of the Emergency Operations Center said the Veterans Administration will be in Okeechobee on March 24 at Indian River State College to give COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment for eligible or enrolled veterans. He said they will use the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. Eligible veterans should call 561-422-5220 to make an appointment.
Public Safety Director Ralph Franklin said the footprint of the vaccination pod at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center has moved to the west side parking lot area due to the county fair’s use of other parts of the property.
Franklin said the next visit from Treasure Coast Food Bank will be on April 2 at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center. He said they will have food to distribute to 300 cars. On April 9, the food bank will be at Okeechobee Music Fest site, with food to distribute to 300 cars.
Commission Chair Terry Burroughs said he has heard complaints from residents who feel some people who are not in need are taking advantage of the food bank, taking spots away from others who really need the help. He said some people saw a Maserati in line for the free food distribution. They also reported brand new pickup trucks in line.
“This is for people really needing this food,” said Burroughs. “If you can afford a Maserati, you don’t need the food bank.
“It’s pretty bad when we have people who are taking advantage of these particular programs,” he said.