Like millions of people throughout Florida, many Longboat Key residents 65 and older have tried and failed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, more than 2,100 residents have succeeded.
Chuck Henry, a health officer with the Florida Department of Health’s Sarasota County office, provided the town data that shows about 2,153 people from Longboat Key’s 34228 ZIP code have received the vaccine as of Tuesday morning.
“He said it may not be 100% accurate, but he thinks that it’s pretty close,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said of the data Henry provided.
There are about 7,000 full-time residents in Longboat Key, of which about 69% are older than 65.
Harmer also helped the town secure a closed-pod agreement with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County to receive a single vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The vial allowed a Longboat Key emergency medical technician to administer the first-round shot to 10 people aged 65 and older on Feb. 4 at Town Hall.
Harmer said part of the agreement was to ensure the town didn’t waste a vaccine from the vial. It means the 10 people who received the vaccine included:
- Town staff 65 and older
- Town commissioners who hadn’t been able to secure an appointment to receive a vaccine
- The spouses of the town staff or commissioners
Harmer said he thinks the town could receive more supply of the vaccine in the future.
“When they expand the offering to let’s say police officers, we’re in a position to administer the vaccine to the police officers, we would be happy to do that, and we’ve now proven that there’s a mechanism for that to work,” Harmer said.
Commissioner BJ Bishop was among those who received the first-round shot at Town Hall. She said she wants to see police officers receive the next wave.
“I’m incredible frustrated because our police officers are as much out there on the frontlines as anybody, and that they can’t get vaccinated just seems not very smart,” Bishop said.
In addition to police officers, Harmer said he’d like to see other people such as utility workers, building inspectors and teachers receive the next wave of vaccines.
“We really do think at some point, as soon as practical that they be added, but I know [there are] all kinds of groups advocating for vaccines,” Harmer said.
The town’s firefighters have received vaccinations because they are considered frontline workers, according to Fire Chief Paul Dezzi.
“It all comes back to this issue of supply,” Harmer said. “There’s not enough vaccine out there right now to meet all the demands and needs of everyone that’s vulnerable.”
Harmer has not received the vaccine yet because he is not in the age range.
Mayor Ken Schneier signed up to receive his first-round shot of the Pfizer vaccination in St. Petersburg, while his wife received a Moderna vaccination near Saint Leo University in Pasco County.
“The bottom line is we need more doses, and it seems to be every time there’s a shipment that comes to Sarasota County and Manatee [County], it’s a bit larger than the last one,” Schneier said. “The line of people waiting seems to be shrinking, and people seem to be less nervous about not being able to get a shot.”
Vice Mayor Mike Haycock recently received his second vaccine at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“I had a couple severe side effects,” Haycock said. “One is my arm hurt. [The] upper arm hurt like crazy, tender to touch and hard to lift.”
Haycock said had flu-like symptoms, fatigue and was achy. He said he’s had friends throughout the area drive to other parts of the state to receive their vaccines.
“I think we’re all frustrated that we can’t take care of our citizen base, especially since it’s a little more susceptible than other places in the counties, but we’ll keep trying and see if we can get a vaccine location out here,” Haycock said.
Data from the state shows Sarasota County is administering an average of 2,000-2,500 COVID-19 tests each day in the last three months. It’s an increase from the 1,200-1,500 tests per day average from August 2020-October 2020.
Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the number of people in Longboat Key who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.