Leaders believe the town's high vaccination rate correlates to its low number of positive cases.
| 12:30 p.m. July 22, 2021
If the residents of Longboat Key aren’t 100% vaccinated yet, they’re close.
Chuck Henry, health officer with the Florida Department of Health’s Sarasota County office, provided Longboat Key leaders data that shows 6,366 residents have completed their COVID-19 vaccine series and 943 people have received one dose.
“I knew they were approaching that, I guess technical 100% mark, but it’s important to understand that 100% represents the official census number that I have for the island of permanent residents,” Henry said.
On Monday, Town Manager Tom Harmer wrote to the Town Commission that Longboat Key had five positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks.
“This is still a low number relatively speaking, but does require close monitoring,” Harmer wrote.
It comes as the number of new COVID-19 positive cases has risen throughout the state and throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital shared an update at the start of the week that the hospital had 36 patients with COVID-19, including seven people in the intensive care unit. SMH said the majority of hospitalizations are among individuals who have not been fully vaccinated, which is in line with national data.
Henry said there’s a correlation between Longboat Key’s low number of reported COVID-19 cases and its vaccination rate. The town had a stretch of several weeks without a reported positive case of COVID-19.
“I’m always leery of saying no cases on the island because I pull the data out of a complex system, and it’s looking at where people are residents of, and so there could very well have been a visitor that went back home and then became sick,” Henry said. “I never say never.”
Henry said 95% of the positive cases in Sarasota County are of people who are not vaccinated.
“Vaccines have been highly effective, and the flip side of that, people always say, ‘Well, wait a minute, you mean 5% of the people that got vaccinated are getting infected, and so I always remind them that our two newest vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, were billed as being 94% and 96% effective after two doses,” Henry said. “And so, we would expect there to be around 5% breakthrough.
“That’s consistent with the data and those are fantastic numbers. We also know that of those that get sick after being vaccinated, typically the majority of them have a much milder illness and are not hospitalized, and so the vaccines make a big difference.”
There isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison to see how Longboat Key’s vaccination rate compares to other towns or cities in the area.
“None of the other cities reside within a single ZIP code, and even if I pull multiple ZIP codes, the ZIP codes don’t reside exclusively within the boundaries of municipalities,” Henry said. “They include unincorporated and incorporated portions.”
According to Henry, about 62% of Sarasota County’s total population has received one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of July 14, which includes the segment of children under 12 not eligible. About 67% of eligible residents are vaccinated, he said.
“I’d like it to be higher than that all around,” Henry said. “We continue to work out to educate people that aren’t vaccinated on reasons they should be vaccinated.”
Henry said there are a few scenarios where people could have a legitimate reason not to get vaccinated.
“Certainly individuals that are, under their doctor’s advice, have been advised not to get vaccinated because of either specific allergies to components of vaccines or underlying health conditions that their healthcare provider feels puts them at greater risk,” Henry said. “I would encourage people to listen to their providers, but short of that, we certainly encourage everyone else to get vaccinated.”