TAMPA, Fla. - Nearly two weeks after all adults became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, some county health departments report slowing demand.
"One of the very disappointing things is when we opened the plant city location over the last week, we had about 1,000 vaccines available that day and the first couple of days we only saw 200, 300 people coming to get vaccinated," said Kevin Watler, a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.
Watler said they aren’t the only county going through this vaccine slump.
"Some of my counterparts in other regional counties, they all have been seeing pretty much a very similar trend that they too have not been able to fill all of their appointments," Watler explained.
The state tracks the number of people vaccinated in every county. As of Friday, about 32 percent of people who live in Hillsborough County got the shot, and it stays around the 20 to 30 percent range for surrounding counties. However, Sarasota County has 50 percent of its residents vaccinated.
"The dominant group that is transmitting the pandemic is the 20 to 49-year-olds, and we’ve hardly touched that group yet with vaccines. So until they get vaccinated, this pandemic is going to be around," said Dr. Edwin Michael, an infectious diseases researcher at USF Health who tracks COVID-19 transmission and vaccination rates.
Dr. Michael said 85 percent of people need antibodies against the virus before the country reaches so-called herd immunity to end the pandemic.
"That is not going to occur even by December with the current vaccination rate, so the message is go and get the vaccines people. We need to up the vaccination rates at least twice," said Michael.
Scientists said the vaccines are safe and effective, so what’s left is for more people to get one.
"We have availability now in the county. No one has an excuse now saying it’s too hard to get an appointment. That’s no longer the case," said Watler.
FDOH Hillsborough County officials said they understand that some people don’t trust them. So Watler said they are also reaching out to religious and community leaders to pass the word around about why getting the vaccine matters.