Florida counts down to vaccinating those 16 and up

In 10 days, all Floridians over the age of 16 will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.  The end goal of putting all these shots into arms is to reach herd immunity, meaning most people are protected from contracting the virus, which slows the spread.

Vaccine manufacturers are cranking out doses, and thousands being administered every day here in Florida.

"It’s not just good enough to develop the vaccine, to distribute the vaccine, we need to make sure that were getting doses in arms," said USF College of Public Health associate professor Dr. Jason Salemi.

The latest data from the Department of Health shows more than 3,004,403 Floridians are fully vaccinated.  However, that is only about 17% of everyone 16 and older who will be eligible for inoculation starting April 5.  Experts say we need to get to 70% for herd immunity.

The timeline to achieve that many people with immunity depends on vaccine supply, distribution, and most importantly demand.

"If we don’t see demand as high as it should be then we need to put steps in place to make sure that people are coming out and getting vaccinated," Salemi said.

Salemi says that entails figuring out what groups aren’t getting the coronavirus shot and doing targeted outreach.  Much like the way doses are being given out at churches in underserved communities.

"We need to have an outreach program that makes sure people understand the value of the vaccinations for themselves, for their families, what it means for their communities, and the likelihood of returning to some true semblance of normalcy," he said.

Based on the current rate of vaccination across the state, local researchers say we could still be months away from that being our reality.

The entire time, we will be in a race to keep COVID-19 infections low, to hopefully prevent the virus from mutating and becoming more deadly or vaccine-resistant.

"Wearing a mask, socially distancing, doing things outdoors, those still really matter in terms of keeping community spread low until we can get enough people vaccinated," said Salemi.

Some employers are actually offering incentives like money or time off to workers who get the vaccine.  Just another way to motivate more people.