Hillsborough County brings vaccines to senior communities

Other Tampa Bay counties also are targeting areas with a high concentration of people 65 and older.
Nick Maleski, a paramedic based in the D.C. area who came down to administer the vaccine, prepares to vaccinate residents and staff by putting on PPE, at Gulf Shore Care Center, Dec. 18, 2020 in Pinellas Park.
Nick Maleski, a paramedic based in the D.C. area who came down to administer the vaccine, prepares to vaccinate residents and staff by putting on PPE, at Gulf Shore Care Center, Dec. 18, 2020 in Pinellas Park. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 20, 2021

TAMPA — More than 80 residents of King’s Manor Apartments in Tampa received coronavirus vaccines Thursday in the first installment of Hillsborough County’s plan to vaccinate seniors at independent-living and senior homes and communities, according to a press release.

In December, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared residents and staff of long-term care facilities and healthcare workers his first priorities for receiving the coronavirus vaccine. Most Florida nursing homes have received doses, while many assisted-living facilities have yet to receive them. In the meantime, DeSantis expanded access — making everyone 65 and older eligible for vaccines.

The vaccination rollout has been chaotic across Tampa Bay, with residents struggling to make appointments, given frequent website crashes and backed-up phone lines. The Targeted Vaccine Area initiative in Hillsborough County is traveling to people 65 and older in their communities, said Kevin Watler, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

“We want to make sure that we’re coming to them, instead of them having to come to a mass vaccination site,” Watler said.

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the University of South Florida College of Public Nursing, Hillsborough County’s Office of Emergency Management and Hillsborough County Aging Services are working together on the effort, Watler said. The department expects Tampa General Hospital to join the collaboration in a couple of weeks, he said.

The local department of health is saving doses from its weekly shipments for the effort, Watler wrote, and “is most certainly focused on 65+ plus minority communities.” The program is using information from sources such as the Department of Aging Services to choose the communities.

State Department of Health offices in Pasco and Hernando counties have rolled out similar programs in recent weeks.

The program in Hernando initially raised concerns about why those in a gated, 55+ community received doses while the county clamored for more supply. Later this week, the department plans to vaccinate people from several congregations at Bethlehem Progressive Baptist Church in Brooksville, according to spokeswoman Ashley Thomas.

The health department in Pasco County has distributed doses to those 65 and older in Timber Greens, another residential community, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In Pinellas County, residents 65 and older can get vaccines at one of four community sites that opened this week, said Tom Iovino, Florida Department of Health spokesman. Residents will learn the locations when they make their appointments online or over the phone.

Hillsborough County’s Office of Emergency Management has identified 350 senior communities and homes and expects to add more to its program, according to the release. Deliveries will be scheduled week-by-week, based on how many vaccines are available.

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“Sometimes we will be able to do more than other times,” Watler said. “We do not want to over-promise and not deliver.”

For more information about senior community vaccination clinics:

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