Vaccine Boom in Alachua County

As of March 9, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light for CVS to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine. This will take effect in Alachua County and the following other counties across Northern Florida: Putnam, Marion and Columbia. This push forward grows the number of CVS locations providing the vaccine from 81 to 157 locations across Florida.

This comes in addition to the other public retail stores in Alachua County providing the vaccine, including Publix, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Winn-Dixie.

Alachua has administered 121,048 doses to the population. Of those, only 48,402 have been fully vaccinated. This means that 28.56% of the population have only been administered a single dose of the vaccine. This has also left nearly 142,000 citizens of the county waiting for their first dose.

In a broader approach, Florida itself has vaccinated 5.47 million citizens, meaning the state has only been able to provide vaccines to around 25% of the population.

Alachua COVID-19 guidelines have expanded to include persons under 50 deemed medically vulnerable with a physician letter, K-12 school employees, law enforcement officers, and firefighters 50 years of age and older.  

However, one of the biggest issues nationwide has been the ability to vaccinate homebound seniors. In Alachua County, firefighters have been working tirelessly to alleviate this vaccine gap. This operation is being named the “Community Health Team.”

This operation was launched on Jan. 19. It essentially works by having the Florida Department of Health communicate with seniors 65 and older. If the senior is considered either homebound or has transportation issues, they are referred to the Alachua Fire Rescue Department. From there the Alachua Fire Rescue works to coordinate with the senior citizen and vaccinates them in their own home. This initiative allows the fire rescue to vaccinate around 11 people a day.

As of March 15, through the Community Health Team, 134 people have received both doses, while 94 have received the first dose.

Fire Rescue Lieutenant Sarah Weed has emphasized the importance of this program, not only for the obvious vaccination work at hand but for the relationships they are developing in the elderly community. Weed notably stated that she likes to help around the elderly person’s house, removing any tripping hazard.

County Commissioner Mary Alford recognizes one of the limitations to the program is staffing, and she has been very vocal about her willingness to expand the program.

Similar efforts are being made by County Commissioner Ken Cornell to service the underrepresented communities in Alachua. He is working directly with the Rural Women’s Health Project.

The Rural Women’s Health Project is aiding the Alachua Latinx community by translating COVID-19 information for non-English speakers. Similarly, they are working to host more vaccination centers solely for Spanish speakers.

Cornell has pushed for similar mandates by developing vaccination centers more accessible to the underserved communities, like vaccination clinics at religious centers.

What’s important is that we work together as a community and do everything in our power to keep those around us safe and healthy.

Featured image: Direct Relief USA Clinic. Unmodified photo by Direct Relief used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/3eO0LdN)

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