Winter storms affect second-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Sarasota County

Health Department staff up to Everbridge registration system account number 21,163 as of Feb. 18

Individuals await their appointments at the Florida Department of Health-Sarasota County vaccine clinic at Sarasota Square Mall. Image courtesy Sarasota County via a YouTube video

Although the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) conducted a Feb. 18 clinic for second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, some individuals who are due those second shots did not get appointments this week, Steve Huard, the DOH-Sarasota public information officer, explained in a video update that day.

“We have not received our allotment of vaccine for this week due to bad weather up North,” he reported.

Whenever the department does have vaccine in hand for those second doses, he added, “We will send out appointment notifications …”

The DOH-Sarasota staff “is committed to distributing the vaccine into the community” as close to Moderna’s 28-day timeline for second doses as possible, a county news release said. “If you received your first dose through the DOH, you are in the DOH system, and your second dose is earmarked specifically for you,” the release pointed out.

Although DOH-Sarasota did have to cut back on second doses because of the severe winter storms affecting much of the United State, county staff has stressed that the department “does not schedule future appointments for doses that are not in-hand or confirmed to arrive on-site.”

Additionally, on Feb. 10, Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff conducted a second-dose vaccination event in Newtown, the City of Sarasota’s traditionally African-American community.

“By far the most underserved community in Sarasota,” a hospital news release said, “Newtown is a historically medically at-risk community where 52% of the population is 200% below the poverty level and is predominantly Black and Latinx.”

A Newtown resident receives his second COVID-19 vaccine dose on Feb. 10. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital

On Jan. 13, the release added, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) staff administered the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to about 400 community members age 65 and older at the SMH Newtown Internal Medicine practice. “Because of transportation and technological challenges, we partnered with Newtown community and church leaders to personally call and schedule the appointments for those 65 and older,” the release pointed out.

“The first and second dose vaccines were administered by newly graduated physicians completing their residency training with Florida State University at Sarasota Memorial and its Newtown practice,” the release noted.

As of Feb. 17, more than 65,554 individuals have received the COVID-19 vaccination in Sarasota County, county staff reported.

These are the latest vaccination figures for Sarasota County as of the News Leader‘s publication deadline for the Feb. 19 issue. Image courtesy Florida Department of Health

Those include persons in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Priority Group 1A, which encompasses individuals 65 and older; those in assisted living and elder care facilities — including staff; medical personnel; and other frontline health care workers, county staff points out.

DOH-Sarasota is continuing to conduct its vaccine clinics at Sarasota Square Mall, which is located at 8201 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

Anyone arriving at the mall for his or her scheduled first- or second- dose appointment should remember to wear a mask; bring proof of residency, proof of appointment confirmation and a signed consent form (forms are available at the site); remember to wear a short-sleeve shirt or loose-fitting sleeves; and be prepared to wait during a 15-minute observation period after the dose has been administered, county staff reminds the public.

DOH-Sarasota also conducted first-dose clinics at the mall on Feb. 16 and 17, county staff noted.

Appointments had been scheduled up to registration number 21,163, the county’s COVID-19 vaccination webpage said on Feb. 18. “[T]his number will not change until additional first-dose notices have gone out,” county Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant pointed out in an email blast to the news media.

Individuals next in line for first-dose appointments, or those approaching their 28-day mark, “are asked to remain patient and wait for an appointment notice,” Grant added in her vaccine alerts this week. No one should go to the Sarasota Square Mall site unless that person has an appointment, she emphasized.

This is the COVID-19 infection data for Sarasota County as of Feb. 17, as reported by the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee. Image courtesy Florida Department of Health
This is the Feb. 17 data showing the COVID-19 positivity rate in Sarasota County over the past couple of weeks. Image courtesy Florida Department of Health

DOH-Sarasota staff also is urging the public to keep in mind the following:

  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 should remain quarantined and not come to the vaccination site [emphasis in the news release].
  • For questions on your registration or account number, call 941-861-VAXS.
  • If have symptoms of COVD-19, consult your primary care physician and/or visit one of two testing sites. Those are at the Sarasota Kennel Club on Bradenton Road, off University Parkway, and the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex on 34th Street in north Sarasota.
  • Individuals who received their first doses at the state-operated vaccine clinic at the Venice Community Center Feb. 10-12 are receiving appointment cards to return for their second doses. These individuals should plan to return to the Venice Community Center on the specified dates and at the times provided to them.
  • “Individuals receiving an appointment notice MUST confirm or decline the appointment,” county staff also emphasizes.Appointment notices being sent though the county’s Everbridge vaccine registration system are selected by order of registration, which is indicated by the account number, not by zip code or location.
  • Any eligible second persons listed on accounts must make certain the registration system has their first and last names and their dates of birth.
  • If you received your vaccine outside Sarasota County, please remove yourself/account from the registration system, staff urges.

Individuals are invited to watch a video with Florida Department of Health-Sarasota Health Officer Chuck Henry explaining the importance and impacts of removing accounts and how to delete accounts.

A still from a county video shows Health Officer Chuck Henry explaining how to delete a vaccination registration account in the county’s Everbridge system. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In that video, Henry points out that staff has seen an increase in the number of persons declining appointments or failing to respond to them. When that happens, he said, “We have to backfill those positions,” which creates “a lot of extra work” for the staff.