Moderna mRNA vaccine vial

Pharmacist Armando Soto holds a recently thawed vial of Moderna mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus, ready for injection into frontline health care workers at Fawcett Memorial Hospital.

Charlotte County officials didn’t know Tuesday what or when the next vaccine allocation would be, but they believe the county will soon be getting a larger share of the state supply.

The county is giving out its 800 COVID-19 Moderna vaccines this week at the Harold Avenue Park to people who signed up last week. Officials are hoping they will receive notice this week of the next shipment, County Health Chief Joe Pepe told The Daily Sun at the commission meeting.

He said he doubts the county will have a week without the vaccine, as happened in Sarasota County. That’s because the state is starting to consider an age-based allocation rather than population-based, he said. This would benefit Charlotte County, the second-oldest county in the country according to many, where 43% of the population is over 64 and eligible to be vaccinated.

As elders complained bitterly about being unable to get a vaccine, Pepe and Emergency Management Director Patrick Sullivan said supply from the state and federal government is now the main problem.

Commissioner Joe Tiseo slammed national lawmakers, who are consumed with the impeachment of the president, for not focusing on the pandemic.

“Everyday they wake up, they should be talking about vaccines, vaccines, vaccines,” he said.

To that end, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to state and federal officials urging the release of vaccine based on the number of older residents.

A move to release more vaccine was taking place at the federal level during the commission meeting. Federal officials announced that they were advising states to start releasing any vaccine being held back for the second doses required with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — currently the only ones available. The Daily Sun reached out to state officials to find out if this was actually a federal issue. Staff with state executive offices did not return comment by press time.

Commissioner Ken Doherty estimated the county needed to be giving out about 25,000 a week, not 800, to quickly reach its 73,000 people over 64.

If future supply estimates are accurate, Pepe said, “We should be able to exceed that.”

The systems for getting an appointment for a vaccine may change in the near future as well, Fuller and Pepe said. They are expecting the state to provide a statewide registration system. In the meantime, the county will continue with its web-based registration, which has angered those who failed to get appointments.

Charlotte County’s phone system has not been able to handle the volume of calls, leading Pepe to remove phone registration as an option. The website was developed by a team of nonprofits, and has been relatively successful in terms of not crashing regularly despite tens of thousands of users attempting to make appointments at the same time.

Individual appointment seekers are enlisting friends and family members to hit these websites simultaneously, Pepe said, causing huge backlogs.

Tiseo asked Fuller if the county was going to switch to a waiting list, where users would leave their name on an answering machine and staff would call them back with an appointment. Fuller said county staff are researching that option. He told The Daily Sun that the weekly approach at present may be the most fair, but also stressful for appointment seekers.


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