Hillsborough Commission revises critique of COVID-19 vaccinations

Nearly 50,000 people received vaccines through Jan. 16.
Pete Zachmann, 72, of Wimauma, receives a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination at the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds, Plant City on Jan. 6.
Pete Zachmann, 72, of Wimauma, receives a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination at the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds, Plant City on Jan. 6. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 21, 2021|Updated Jan. 21, 2021

TAMPA — The “clown show”” from two weeks ago is now considered thoughtful, efficient and smooth.

That is the latest critique from Hillsborough commissioners on the effort to schedule and administer COVID-19 vaccinations for the public.

“We have had some stumbles,” acknowledged County Administrator Bonnie Wise.

On Jan. 6, commissioners unloaded on the rollout of the appointment scheduling amid public complaints of a crashed web web site and overloaded telephone lines. Commissioner Ken Hagan called it a “clown show.”

But the county fired its original vendor OnSite Screenings, LLC, that had been retained in December for testing and vaccination services. CDR Maguire, Inc. replaced OnSite under a four-month contract approved Thursday that will total nearly $22 million.

Related: Hillsborough commission blasts vaccine 'clown show.'

Commissioners said compliments had replaced the criticisms.

“This county has put all hands on deck to administer these vaccinations while we’re still helping with testing,” said Commissioner Mariella Smith.

She said the public has told her the system is running efficiently and smoothly.

Only about 50,000 people in Hillsborough had received the vaccine through Jan. 16, including nearly 7,800 who had received their second doses. The county administered 42 percent of the doses, with the private partners handling 58 percent.

Less than 23,000 of those vaccinated were 65 or older, one of the state’s target audiences for the vaccination. The county has 206,000 people who are at least 65 years old.

Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County, said he presumed the more than 26,000 doses administered to people younger than 65 went to health-care workers who have direct contact with patients. That is another group the state has identified as a priority. Holt estimated there are 140,000 health care workers in the county.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman noted that at the current pace of vaccinations, inoculating all county residents could take 750 days.

“We’re all hampered by the lack of supply,” said Deputy County Administrator Greg Horwedel.

Holt said he believed health officials could administer up to 25,000 doses a day in Hillsborough if there are sufficient vaccine supplies.

“Our real goal is to get out of the business when there’s widespread supply,” Holt said.

With enough doses available, it would be akin to administering flu shots at pharmacies and other sites to which the public is accustomed, he said.

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