Many of Marion County’s latest COVID-19 cases can be attributed to holiday gatherings and it could take up to three months to inoculate the 50,000 senior residents who already have signed up for vaccines.
That’s according to Mark Lander, Florida Department of Health administrator in Marion County, who spoke before the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning.
“Approximately 50 percent of our senior population has registered, which I think is amazing,” Lander said, adding that the county health department will resume registrations once a good portion of those 50,000 residents have received the vaccines.
Lander cited previous spikes in new COVID-19 cases over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. He said the county, which on Tuesday was reporting 18,971 cases – an increase of 230 in a 24-hour period – is now seeing similar increases following Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Moving forward, Lander said he’s hoping to set up a large vaccination site in vacant stores inside the Paddock Mall that would include areas for registration, inoculations and observation after the doses have been administrated. If that comes to fruition, Lander added, close to 1,000 vaccinations could be administered there on a daily basis.
Lander also told commissioners that having an online registration for seniors to get vaccinated was a much better plan than the first come, first served method other counties have used. He said that approach also makes it much easier to assure that those being vaccinated receive the second dose in 21 or 28 days, depending on which vaccine they were administered.
Finally, Lander told commissioners that he and other health officials are looking forward to the day when the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine becomes available, hopefully sometime in February. He said that will make vaccinating area residents much faster and smoother, as his staff won’t have to plan for those second shots.