Orange County, state planning in-home vaccine effort, Demings says

Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

State and Orange County officials are planning a vaccination program that would allow health officials to administer shots at a person’s home, potentially a valuable tool for reaching seniors who can’t easily travel to vaccine sites.

Demings said more details would be announced in the coming days, but the program would likely kick off next week. The state would provide canvassers to go door-to-door in neighborhoods, and they would be paired with local firefighters to give the shots.

Neighborhoods would be selected by the county and cities, based on their Social Vulnerability Index, a Centers for Disease Control metric that measures an area’s susceptibility to disasters, including disease outbreaks.

The effort would complement a series of state and federal efforts to vaccinate people around the region.

Appointments are available at the Orange County Convention Center for people eligible for the vaccine, and the portal is expected to open tomorrow with more slots next week, when eligibility will expand to include any Floridian over the age of 60, said Alvina Chu, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army continues to vaccinate people at FEMA’s site at Valencia College’s West Campus, as well as at satellite locations at Barnett Park in Pine Hills and at the Arrington Aquatic Center in Poinciana. Those sites don’t require an appointment, and the satellite sites only allow for walk-ups.

Jared Moskowitz, the state’s director of emergency management, said Thursday in a tweet that the shift to walk-ups was to “eliminate the digital divide and increase vaccine in the minority population.”

Those sites will close after Saturday, with a new satellite location opening at South Econ Community Park from March 14 to March 17.

But even with vaccine efforts well underway, 12 more county residents have died with the virus since Monday, Chu said, bringing the death toll in Orange to 1,138.

New infections have plateaued, she said, a good sign for the county, which saw spikes in infections in December and January, tied to holiday gatherings. But with the potential for throngs traveling to the area for spring break, she said young people should remain diligent in wearing masks, washing hands and keeping their distance from each other, so as not to spark outbreaks.

“We just wanted to point out that we’re not quite out of the woods yet,” Chu said. “It’s not quite time to relax our pandemic precautions.”

rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com