Vaccine doses arrived this week in Charlotte County, and the county announced Tuesday afternoon people can get in line for reservations using the state's phone registration system.
The phone number is 866-200-9160. Call that number, enter your birthdate, ZIP code and phone number, and you will receive a call back about an appointment.
This week, the county received 1,500 first doses for people 65 and over, Health Chief Joe Pepe told The Daily Sun after the weekly pandemic update to commissioners. For people eligible for their second dose of the Moderna COVID-10 vaccine, the county has received a separate supply of 2,000 doses this week. These people getting their second shots do not need to call the new number. Instead, they will get phone calls to schedule their second shot.
Pepe and Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller told commissioners Tuesday that the state's online registration system was not ready for action yet, and they did not know when it would be ready.
Before noon, emergency management directors were weighing whether to wait for the online system to go live, giving the 1,500 first doses to clinics and pharmacies, or using the state phone system for appointments. By afternoon, they had chosen the phone option.
Lee County has been using the state phone system as a pilot test, allowing the contractor Tidal Basins to debug problems with the system that was hit with 50,000 calls per second at first. Lee County is much larger than Charlotte.
This week's doses will go out this week, Health Chief Joe Pepe told The Daily Sun. That is the best way to ensure that the state resupplies the county quickly, he said.
At the current level of supply, the county will continue to use one location in the middle of the county. That is the Harold Avenue Recreation Center, 23400 Harold Avenue.
Emergency management staff determined they can handle up to 1,000 doses a day at Harold Avenue alone, Pepe told commissioners, which is more than they are getting from the state. When supplies increase, the county has many options for other locations, Fuller said.
Publix supermarkets in Lee and Charlotte counties have been getting a weekly supply of 300 doses per store, Pepe said, which they may distribute over two days in the week.
The state reversed a reversed decision Tuesday on how to handle second doses. Federal officials advised states a few weeks ago that they were not going to hold back supply of second doses, to speed up the dispersal of first doses nationwide. Florida announced it would do the same, but then reversed, saying it is setting aside second doses and sending them out to counties as separate from first doses.
This makes planning easier, although vaccine manufacturers are advising that several-week delays of the second dose is not problematic. Moderna's second dose is scheduled for a minimum of 28 days after the first. Pfizer's is 21, but Charlotte County is not administering Pfizer vaccines, which require refrigeration at 94 degrees below zero.
Counties have blamed the state for insufficient weekly supply of vaccine. The states have blamed the federal government. The federal government has blamed the states.
Pfizer and Moderna, the two manufacturers supplying the United States, both say they are boosting their production to increase rollout. Pfizer told The Daily Sun it has boosted its global manufacturing from 1.3 billion to 2 billion doses by adding contract manufacturers and squeezing an extra dose into each vial. Moderna announced Jan. 4 that it was increasing its global production from 500 to 600 million doses with a goal of 1 billion by the end of 2021. It will distribute 100 million in the United States by the end of March.
Both companies have contracts with numerous other countries.
Vaccination of staff and patients in area nursing homes have completed their first dose, Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller told commissioners. Assisted living facilities have not. This separate program is being run by Walgreens and CVS stores through a federal contract.
Charlotte County has vaccinated 9,705 people with the first dose as of data through Jan. 24, according to state reports. Another 843 had gotten their second dose. People 65 and older totaled 7,159 of first doses. People 65 and over totaled 381 of second doses. Frontline health care workers were the first to be eligible. The county has an estimated 73,000 people age 65 and over out of 188,000 total population.