Manatee County leaves vaccine distribution to pharmacies, focuses on hurricane season

Since December, Manatee County has put 160,000 COVID-19 vaccines into people's arms. 

"They've been on the front lines. They were eager to get out and start vaccinating the community, we thought we’d be in this a lot longer," Manatee County's public safety director, Jacob Saur said.

But demand has waned at country-run vaccine sites. As the age for vaccinations was lowered, and the number of pharmacies offering the vaccine has increased, Saur said demand decreased. 

"It's much more convenient for those that are in the community to go to their local pharmacy, physicians are starting to get it as well. We want to keep up the message, that you should get vaccinated," he said.

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As more options became available, demand has dropped at the county-run site, from 2,600 appointments a day to only 330 during a walk-up clinic last week. 

As hurricane season approaches, Manatee County has decided to focus its efforts elsewhere and wind down activity at its vaccination sites.

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Many of the people who work the site have other duties in the county. 

"We aren’t giving up on vaccines. We think that as we move forward the vaccines can be offered in a much smaller setting out in the community," said Saur. 

Hillsborough and Sarasota counties have switched to a first-come-first-served operation. Pinellas County is going to offer appointments at three sites and walk-up vaccines at a state-run site.

"We are business as usual here in Pinellas," said Maggie Hall the public information officer for the Florida Dept. of Health in Pinellas County.

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Unlike past months, appointments are easy to come by, so there's no better time to get the vaccine.

"You can make an appointment or just walk up very easily or readily. The good thing about being fully vaccinated is it’ll let you do a lot more good stuff," said Hall. 

The last first-dose clinic will be held on Wednesday from 3-7 p.m at Tom Bennett Park. No appointment is necessary. Second doses will be given out on May 26.