Although local officials did not expect to receive additional vaccines this week, the state said it is shipping more doses to Sarasota and Manatee.
The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County announced today it has depleted its store of COVID-19 vaccines and will not receive an additional supply from the state this week — but the state subsequently contradicted the latter claim, announcing more vaccines are on the way.
Steve Huard, a spokesperson for the Sarasota County health department, said officials received notice on Friday that the state would not be supplying COVID-19 vaccines this week. Manatee County also announced it did not expect to receive additional vaccines this week.
“I do not know how that decision was made,” Huard said at a press conference today.
Following that press conference, however, the Florida Department of Health said Sarasota and Manatee would receive additional vaccines later this week. Jason Mahon, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health, said both counties would receive 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Mahon said the state’s preliminary distribution plan, shared Friday, did not include any allocations for Sarasota or Manatee. Mahon said the department worked through the weekend to update that distribution plan, incorporating both counties in the finalized version.
Mahon said a variety of factors influence the state’s decisions on distribution, including county size and the presence of local partners. Mahon said the state is prioritizing getting the vaccine to the public as quickly as possible. Mahon said the state health department is not concerned that conflicting messages from state and local officials today are indicative of issues with the rollout.
“We’re not worried about miscommunication over the course of a couple of days as much as we are about getting it right,” Mahon said.
After receiving notice from the state about the incoming vaccines, Huard said the Sarasota health department would share its plans for distributing that shipment to the public later this week.
At the press conference, Huard said the county was hoping to start drive-thru vaccinations this week, but that was not possible when officials were under the impression no vaccines were available.
Huard also said the health department is revising its plans for distributing a second shot to individuals who have already received the first dose of a vaccine, stating that any follow-up appointments are being rescheduled. Huard indicated the department intended to distribute the second doses at drive-thru clinics. The department will contact people who received a first shot when plans are finalized.
“Again — and I must stress this — this is very dependent upon vaccine availability,” Huard said.
The health department is working to establish a new system through which the public can make appointments to get vaccinated. Huard said that system would be designed to accommodate appointments over the telephone as well as online.
At the press conference, Huard said it was possible that system could be running by the time the county received more vaccines. Otherwise, the health department will continue to use the online-only Eventbrite registration process. Huard encouraged the public to monitor the health department website for updates.
Huard noted that more than 15,000 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in Sarasota County, according to state data. Before the update from the state about a new shipment, Huard reminded the public that availability was in flux because the vaccine rollout was taking place across the United States.
“I think the important thing for people to remember in Sarasota County is that the vaccine is being distributed throughout the nation, not just Florida or Sarasota County,” Huard said.
UPDATE: This article has been edited to include information from the Florida Department of Health about plans to distribute 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Sarasota and Manatee counties.