Manatee County sees ‘light at end of the tunnel’ after vaccinating more than 50,000 people

Fifty thousand people have been given a sense of relief in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine in Manatee County. 

"There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even my group is starting to see it. How quick we are moving through that vaccine waiting pool," said Jacob Saur. 

At Tom Bennett Park, Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said he's proud of the team's non-stop efforts. 

"You really don’t see many drive-through sites that can put out that many unless you’re talking about a large FEMA or drive-through site," he said. 

Since the site opened, agencies have worked to expand vaccinations to 2,600 a day. Their waiting pool which once had 100,000 plus people registered is now down to 90,000. 

"Our team is already forward-looking, what’s it look like for the next age population if there is one. Do we move to the general population? What’s it look like? It’s always trying to stay out in front of this, constantly planning," said Saur. 

On Wednesday afternoon, law enforcement from Manatee County ages 50 and up were vaccinated. 

"We are thankful now that we have this added layer of protection for some of us," said Chief Melanie Bevan. 

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Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan received a vaccination. She said she wanted to set an example for her officers. She's witnessed their commitment to the community even during the pandemic. 

"I was out riding along with one of my officers, the officer who got there before me was performing CPR on someone who had just passed away from COVID-19. Here’s one of my folks out there in harm’s way. We do it because that’s our job to do it and we are willing to do it. But we are thankful now that we have this added layer of protection for some of us," she said. 

Chief Bevan said hand sanitizer, masks and gloves can only provide so much protection for law enforcement. 

"This has been the one missing key ingredient. There’s not a lot of us. There’s only about 20 of us who are eligible, out of the 20 that are eligible 90% of us are taking advantage of it," she said. 

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Manatee County is also working on a plan with the school district to vaccinate Manatee County educators. Since they've started more than 57,000 Manatee County residents have been vaccinated. 

"We’ll continue to vaccinate the fastest and most efficient way they can," Saur said. "Those that are still in the vaccine waiting pool, we are going to get to you and we think we are going to get to you very quickly. Hang in there." 

Next week, a second county site will open at the Manatee County Public Safety Center. Names will be selected through the waiting pool. For eight weeks, the state will help the county double down on its vaccination efforts. It'll bring relief to a team that's worked through the pandemic. 

"They want closure and this helps them get a closure to what they’ve been going through fighting COVID for over a year now," said Saur. 

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