ORLANDO, Fla. — Starting Monday, all adults in Florida, and some minors, are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine and so far, more than 6 million Floridians have received at least one dose of vaccine and soon, millions more will join the list.
What You Need To Know
- On Monday, Florida opened up the vaccine to all Florida residents 18 and up
- Pfizer vaccine will be available to 16 and 17 year olds
- Site at Valencia College West reached capacity for first shots at 1:15 p.m.
- Getting a COVID Vaccine in Central Florida
The FEMA-supported walk up vaccination site at Valencia College West — which is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — received a surge in demand.
As of 1:15 p.m., the site at Valencia College West Campus had administered all first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available for Monday, officials at the site said. Second-dose Pfizer vaccines are still available until 7 p.m. for individuals scheduled to return for their second dose Monday. The site will reopen at 7 a.m. Tuesday for individuals 18 years and older to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, as well as individuals scheduled to receive their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
"We do have high hopes we're going to see a lot more people in this age group take interest and come and get the vaccine," said Denise Whitehead, a state public information officer for the Valencia College site.
On Tuesday, Valencia College will be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to people 18 and older.
Site leaders at the Orange County Convention Center vaccination site expected a good turnout on Monday, too, for those seeking the vaccine. Appointments at the site are booked.
Site leaders say staff members are ready and it will be just like any other normal day on site.
Anyone who is 18 years old and up in Florida is eligible for the vaccine, but only the Pfizer vaccine will also be available to 16 and 17 year olds.
For 16 and 17 year olds, a parent or guardian must register them for the appointment, accompany them, and have a consent form completed.
Doctors say vaccines are the key to herd immunity but getting to that point will not be be easy.
Dr. Brittany Busse, associate medical director at WorkCare, said when it comes to overcoming COVID-19 vaccinations are the key, pushing the nation toward herd immunity. But Florida is not there yet.
“The vaccine right now currently only protects the vaccinated person because there’s such a low amount of vaccination overall,” Busse said.
Medical leaders say to get to the point where person-to-person spread becomes unlikely, 70 to 85 percent of the population would need to be immune through antibodies or vaccination. That may be tough — some people don’t want their shot, while others including children, are not approved by the FDA to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
And in the meantime, new COVID-19 variants are driving further spread of the virus.
“We can’t really keep up with vaccinations at the rate that we’re going and the rate that the virus is mutating. So at some point, there may be boosters required and that may have an impact on the efficacy of herd immunity,” Busse said.
Currently, many are happy to have gotten the vaccine.
“It’s been a breeze. And I am grateful,” said Helene Webster Goldstein, Orlando.
This is a momentous day for Webster Goldstein as she walked through the vaccination site at Valencia College with her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in her arm and her son by her side.
“Oh I am sharing with everyone to come over here to the West Campus of Valencia, my son included. He’ll be here on Tuesday, first thing because they’re allowing adults to come full force,” Webster Goldstein said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 27-year-old Jessica Andrews said everything she knew and loved was hit hard.
“It’s pretty much affected every aspect of my life, from my work, to my relationship, to my hobbies," said Andrews.
Her long-distance relationship suffered as the two were distanced through both space and time.
“My partner also lives in the U.K., and I have not been able to see him because of all this," said Andrews. "I got to see him once over the past 13 months.”
She is now focusing on doing everything it takes to be one of the first in this expanded eligibility group to get a shot Monday, and she is not alone.
“We do have high hopes that we’re going to see a lot more people in this age group take interest and come and get the vaccine, said Whitehead.
Whitehead says she expects a surge in demand come Monday, and she is hoping those now able to get the vaccine will roll up their sleeves.
“I just can’t stress enough that these people who are more active, who are going to school, who are working every day, who are interacting with the public on a large scale, really do need to have this protection," she said. "So we wear masks to protect each other, we get vaccines to protect each other as well."
For Andrews, it is about protecting herself, and protecting her future.
“I will probably cry when I get it, and just hop out of there as if I’d just got accepted to UF again, or something like that you know," said Andrews.
While the road to reach herd immunity may take time, the vaccine is offering an immediate dose of positivity and relief for individuals like Webster Goldstein, who are helping Florida to inch closer toward that point one shot at a time.
“I am so grateful to have it behind me, I have my badge of courage and I’m ready to see my family again,” Webster Goldstein said. “I’m very happy."
They have language interpreters available too to help make sure anyone in the community can access their vaccine as long as they qualify.