OKEECHOBEE – If you are over the age of 65 and want to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus, sign up now at myvaccine.fl.gov or call 866-201-1060 to get on the waitlist.
At the Feb. 25 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners, Public Safety Director/Fire Chief Ralph Franklin said the county and Florida Department of Health (DOH) conducted a drive-thru vaccination pod on Wednesday at the Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center.
He said 495 appointments for vaccinations were made through the state waitlist, and about 450 people showed up for their appointments. Franklin said some county staff and volunteers on the site who were over the age of 65 were also vaccinated for a total of 460 for the day.
The next vaccination pod for first doses of the Moderna vaccine will be on Tuesday, March 2, by appointment only.
DOH is expecting another 500 doses next week. Franklin said those who can’t print out the consent forms themselves can pick up paper copies at the Okeechobee County Public Library. Library staff is also available to help people with the forms and to answer questions about proof of state residency.
He said they expect to host another vaccination pod on Tuesday.
“Fairly soon we will go to a second pod on Thursdays for second doses only,” said Franklin. The pod for second vaccinations will be at the Agri-Civic Center and operated by the Department of Health.
Franklin said the drive-thru pods are by appointment only. Those who have already had their first dose will be called by DOH for the second dose appointments.
He said vaccination pods are expected to continue for months, and they need to plan for the hotter weather as well as protection from rain. He said they will need to purchase some tents for the program. He has been in contact with other counties that use arenas, such as the one at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center. When the arena is available, they can use that covered space for actual shots, but they will still need tents for the other check points.
He said with the county fair coming up, they will not be able to use the arena for several weeks, so they will also have to plan for that.
Mitch Smeykal, of the Okeechobee Emergency Operations Center, said they are working on a plan to vaccinate those over the age of 65 who are homebound. Some counties are using paramedics for that, he said. Smeykal said it might be better to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for that because it does not require the strict temperature controls required for the Moderna vaccine. (Okeechobee County has not received any of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at extreme low temperatures.)
“I don’t want to lose sight of the homebound seniors,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs.
“From the information we have from Senior Services, there are about a dozen who are homebound,” said Franklin. He said they have done the paperwork which will allow DOH to provide vaccine to Fire/Rescue.
Smeykal said there may be some homebound seniors who are not registered with Okeechobee County Senior Services. “Encourage anyone who is not receiving service from Senior Services to get in contact with us,” he added.
Franklin said the food bank will be at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic center on March 6 with supplies to serve 300 cars. The food bank will be at the Coquina Water Control District on March 9 with supplies for 100 cars.
He said his office is working with police departments and sheriff’s offices to determine how many sworn officers are over the age of 50 and of those, how many would like to be vaccinated.
He also announced that CVS Health will start providing vaccinations at 81 locations across Florida. Patients must register at CVS.com. Participating CVS stores will be in Broward, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Hendry, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. As vaccine supply increases, CVS will add more stores.
COVID-19 vaccinations are also available through:
• Publix Pharmacies, register online at https://www.publix.com/covid-vaccine;
• Walmart pharmacies, register online at https://www.walmart.com/cp/flu-shots-immunizations/1228302; and,
• Winn-Dixie pharmacies, register online at https://www.walmart.com/cp/flu-shots-immunizations/1228302.