Mary Helen Moore
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
DAYTONA BEACH — Volusia County officials said the vaccine roll out in Daytona Beach that led seniors to wait in their cars overnight in the cold was a mistake.
“Everybody in the county saw what happened in Daytona Beach. It’s not acceptable,” County Chair Jeff Brower said Wednesday. “We won’t allow it to happen again.”
Patricia Boswell, who leads the Volusia County office of Florida Department of Health, apologized for the way the vaccine was administered Monday and Tuesday. She said in hindsight she would not have had people waiting in their cars during the chilly weather. Temperatures dipped into the low 40s Monday night and Tuesday morning.
“I would have done it differently,” she said. “I do apologize to anyone who has been impacted in a negative way.”
Vaccines were administered to 2,000 people at the first-come, first-served drive-thru event at Daytona Stadium. An event in Deltona to vaccinate another 2,000 people is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. All appointments for that event were booked within three minutes.
Boswell said they will use Eventbrite to book vaccinations in advance moving forward.
“We’re going to go with an appointment system at this point and we’re going to work closely — very closely — with our county partners and our city partners to try and make it the best possible experience for those that are coming out to be vaccinated,” she said.
Brower asked for patience as the vaccine supply remains limited.
“The amount of fear in the public is unprecedented. We get 2,000 vials of vaccine. We’ve got 250,000 that want it,” Brower said. “We will get it out as quickly as we get the vaccine in.”
No further events will be announced until more doses arrive, Brower said.
“We want to ensure that we are able to follow through with our commitments to the community,” he said. “And not give people false hope.”
Boswell said supplies are not enough to meet a fraction of the current demand. She said even the number of vaccines per shipment is an unknown.
“We have been told that we will continue to receive shipments,” Boswell said. “Everything is dependent on receiving vaccine.”
Vaccines are distributed by the federal government to the states, which then allocates doses to all of Florida’s 67 counties. The factors that go into that allocation are unclear.
As of Tuesday in Volusia County, the state reports 6,795 people have received their first vaccine dose, the 14th most among Florida counties. This lags just slightly behind both the population and share of cases and deaths.
“Do I think it’s adequate? By no means,” Boswell said. “Things have not gone as smoothly as we would have liked. We’ve learned from this and we have improved our processes.”
Vaccine hesitancy causes concern
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said first responders would begin receiving vaccinations this week. He said deputies are strongly encouraged to do get vaccinated, but not required to do so.
“We have roughly 470 sworn deputies. A little over 100 signed up to get vaccinated,” Chitwood said. “Having had (COVID-19) myself, I would hope that more of them would get themselves vaccinated. So, that’s a concern that more are not getting vaccinated.”
Chitwood said he wouldn’t take the vaccine until there was enough for all the seniors in the community.
Brower said he has not been vaccinated.
“I have not had the vaccine. Nobody in my family has had the vaccine. Nobody in my family will have the vaccine, including me. I want to see everybody else get done,” he said.
When asked to clarify whether he meant he would never get the vaccine or would simply wait until doses were more plentiful, Brower said that was personal information.
“That’s my healthcare decision and I don’t feel like I have to share it with the public,” he said.
Reached later by text, Brower said his family “offered to be last in line.”
Surge in cases doubles July peak
COVID-19 is surging in Volusia County, with more than 3,000 cases announced in the past two weeks and a positivity rate reaching averaging 10.5 percent since Christmas.
“The surges began with the Thanksgiving holiday and now we’re beginning to see the Christmas infections on top of that. This new surge in Volusia is nearly double what we saw in July,” she said.
There were 458 deaths and 23,791 cases in the county as of Tuesday.
The Moderna coronavirus vaccine comes in two doses, and Boswell said the people who received their first dose were given instructions to return to the site on the appropriate day for their second dose. No appointments are necessary — the people will simply return to where they were vaccinated on the date instructed.
“We’ve reserved the site for the two days that will be necessary to do those second doses,” she said of Daytona Stadium and Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex in Deltona.
Deltona and Daytona Beach were chosen as initial distribution sites because they have the largest shares of the population older than 65, Boswell said.
“Daytona Beach had the most cases,” she added.
Brower said communication between the state-run Department of Health and the county has been an issue, but one he feels confident will improve.
“It could be better,” he said. “We can’t force people to pick up the phone, but we have to move ahead from here.”
Brower said comprehensive plans are in place, but some factors are out of the county’s control.
“That’s not an excuse. That’s reality,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. There will be other bumps in the road.”
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Volusia health official apologizes for vaccine roll out that left seniors out in the cold
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