Sumter County is planning for COVID-19 vaccinations and has prepared a list of long-term care facilities where residents and staff will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
At least one vaccine is expected to roll out in mid-December, although it’s unclear how many doses the county could receive.
Nationally, first responders and health care workers are expected to be the first in line along with an estimated 145,000 residents and 223,000 employees of Florida nursing homes, assisted living centers and other long-term care facilities. People with high-risk medical conditions and about 4 million older adults over age 65 in the state also will be early recipients.
“All planning is at an early phase at this point,” said Megan McCarthy, a biological scientist and public information officer at the Sumter County Health Department.
She said the distribution will follow guidelines established during the H1N1 pandemic and distribution of hepatitis vaccines.
The county likely will use centralized distribution points. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage at 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and McCarthy said it’s not clear whether the county has a storage facility for it.
“Since we don’t know what we’re getting, we don’t know what we need,” she said.
The Florida Department of Public Health will conduct a statewide mock vaccine distribution drill with the state’s 67 county public health departments next Tuesday to test the delivery system. The exercise will focus on administering daily vaccinations, use of personal protective equipment and logistical planning for mass vaccination clinics.
The department also is coordinating with pharmacies throughout the state to deliver COVID-19 vaccines similar to their flu vaccine programs. The pharmacies are expected to play a key role in delivering the vaccine to long-term care facilities.
Drive-through vaccination stations also may be set up similar to those used for COVID-19 testing. Vaccines also will be delivered to homeless shelters, hospitals and through community-based organizations, according to the department’s tentative planning.
Instead of using distribution centers, vaccines will be shipped directly to providers, who must provide proof of cold temperature storage capability.
Several vaccines require two doses and providers will be responsible for recalling their patients to receive the second dose.
In Sumter County, COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at the federal and state prisons, which could be viewed as long-term care facilities.
But McCarthy said that doesn’t mean that inmates will get the vaccine before most Villagers.
She said the state prison will be “handled differently” and the Coleman federal prison will be the responsibility of the U.S. government.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold reported Tuesday that 92 people in Sumter County have died of COVID-19, 18 people were hospitalized with three in intensive care units.