by Pat Raia
More than a half-million people have received at least the first round of COVID19 vaccinations, but the distribution of the vaccine has been anything but smooth. In response, US Senator Rick Scott is calling for a probe into the way vaccines are being distributed nationwide.
On Jan. 7, US Sen. Rick Scott called for a Congressional investigation into the way vaccines were being distributed after reports surfaced that directors and major donors of a West Palm Beach nursing home and assisted-living were allegedly offering vaccines intended for residents to members of the board and major donors.
“The first priority is our seniors and vulnerable population, and our healthcare and frontline workers,” Scott said in a written statement. “We have to do everything possible to get this vaccine out in an efficient and fair manner, and I am calling for a full Congressional investigation into reports of improper vaccine distribution.”
According to the Florida Department of Health, about 1.48 million COVID-19 cases reported in Florida since the onset of the pandemic, and 558,326 have been vaccinated to date. In Hernando County 4,963 people have been vaccinated so far. Of those 4,917 have received the first dose, and 46 have completed the vaccination series.
In December, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that those over age 65, anyone who resides in a long-term health facility and health care personnel who have direct contact with patients get priority for vaccinations.
But getting enough of the vaccine into the hands of those who dispense it has not kept pace with the demand.
In Hernando County, COVID-19 inoculations using the Moderna began on Jan. 4 for the first dose with the second dose slated for 28 days later.
As of 8 a.m. on Jan. 11, the Florida Department of Health (FDH) in Hernando County has given 1,360 vaccines to those ages 65 and up, according to Ashley D. Thomas, public information officer for FDH in Hernando County.
No additional vaccination appointments are currently available, and there is no waitlist.
“We are at capacity for our appointments in relation to the volume of vaccine we have been supplied at this time,” Thomas said.
Then on Jan. 5, the Publix supermarket chain under an agreement with Gov. Ron DeSantis began making 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine available to customers ages 65 years and older in the pharmacies of 22 stores in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties.
On Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous stated, “Approximately 9,700 vaccines gave (have) been administered." However, like FDH Hernando County, no new appointments are available, according to Brous.
“We continue to work with Governor DeSantis and his team to secure additional vaccines,” Brous said.
Meanwhile, FDH Hernando County will inform residents about registration for new appointments once this information is made available, Thomas said.