MANATEE COUNTY – With the demand for COVID-19 vaccine first doses lessening, Director of Public Safety Jacob Saur says the county is shutting down its vaccine efforts to focus on the looming hurricane season.
“The county-operated vaccine sites have been extremely successful and I’m proud of the teams of people who helped make Manatee County’s field operation a model for the entire state to follow,” Saur said. “But with the demand for doses declining, the public safety staff who have been coordinating the logistics for our drive-thru operations need to turn their focus toward hurricane season, which begins June 1.”
Manatee County began offering COVID-19 vaccines in late December 2020. Now a drive-up event at the Tom Bennett Park vaccination site will be the final time that Florida residents can get a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from the county, though there are plenty of other vaccination opportunities in the area.
The event is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 28 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Bennett Park, 400 Cypress Creek Blvd. in Bradenton. No appointments are required, just drive up and get the shot while remaining in your vehicle. Anyone who attends the drive-up event will have their second shot of the Moderna vaccine at the park on May 26. Anyone who can show proof of Florida residency and is age 18 or older is eligible for a first vaccine dose through Manatee County. Vaccines will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
Anyone who has already received a first dose of the vaccine at the county-run site and has not been scheduled for a second dose at the Public Safety Center location will receive their second dose approximately 28 days after the first dose at Bennett Park. The Public Safety Center vaccination site is planned to close before the end of April.
Saur said only about 330 people attended the first drive-up vaccination clinic at Bennett Park held April 21, though the county had vaccine doses to distribute to up to 1,000 people.
“As someone who has volunteered, it takes an army to man it,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said of the vaccination site. “This week’s walk-up was dismal. If something changes, I am sure we will reconsider. I am referring to all pharmacies, Health Department and MCR Health.”
As of April 22, about 134,000 people had been vaccinated through the Manatee County vaccination sites so far, with an estimated 161,326 Manatee County residents vaccinated in total. In 2020, the U. S. Census Bureau said that there were 412,119 residents in Manatee County.
“I am concerned that it is soon,” Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said of the vaccination site’s closure. “I do not have enough information to provide a very educated opinion, for example, staffing availability, etc. I would hope that there could be pop-up sites as an alternative throughout the county to reach out to all citizens in need.”
If you can’t make it to the April 28 vaccination clinic but still need your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, there are still plenty of options available.
The Department of Health in Manatee County will continue booking vaccination appointments into the summer. Call 941-242-6646 to make an appointment. The DOH is located at 410 Sixth Ave. E. in Bradenton.
The DOH also is working with partner organizations to reach those Manatee County residents who are home-bound, migrant workers and others. Any organization interested in partnering with the DOH to distribute COVID-19 vaccines can call 941-748-0747 for more information.
Locally, vaccines also can be obtained through CVS, Publix, Walgreens, Walmart and Winn-Dixie pharmacy locations.
To find out where a nearby vaccination site is, visit the Florida Department of Health’s vaccine locator online.
“If they’re not going to give the vaccines anymore they should take the responsibility for continuing to advertise that’s it available elsewhere,” said Cortez resident Mary Green, adding that she adheres to the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated people continue to wear masks when they’re with other people.
As of April 25, Manatee County has had 37,553 COVID-19 cases and 655 COVID-related deaths.