Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties seeing strong vaccine demand

Moderna vaccine
Moderna vaccine
Giovanni Cancemi via Shutterstock

COVID-19 vaccine appointments are going fast in Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties with appointment slots this week filling within hours of opening to the public.

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in those counties opens the registration system and makes appointments as they receive doses, said Wesley Asbell, the public information officer for the FDOH in Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties. Currently, the health departments are getting new Moderna vaccine allotments on Monday and then only opening appointments based on the number of doses they have received.

The distribution of doses to the counties has not been consistent enough to predict when the counties will get doses and how many they will receive.

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“We are not giving appointments for vaccines we don’t have,” Asbell told Mainstreet Daily News in a phone interview.

When they do have availability, the appointment slots are going fast. Dixie and Levy counties opened registration at 8 a.m. Wednesday and all the appointment slots were filled by mid-afternoon. In Gilchrist County on Tuesday, the slots filled up even faster, opening at noon and filling by 3 p.m.

Gilchrist and Levy counties have text-alert systems that allow residents to receive updates on the vaccination program, and Asbell said he thinks the text system helped speed the registration process. At times, the health departments are getting so many calls that callers can’t even reach the phone system, which has a recorded message about whether appointment slots are available.

“I can assure you, you have a group of people who are working as hard as they know how to make this rollout [successful],” Asbell said. “There has not been a person in these three counties in this last year that has not been involved in this mission. It’s taken everybody that we have for testing, for immunization.”

Currently, available appointments are reserved for full- or part-time Florida residents 65 and older, first responders and frontline health care workers.

“People are going to have to exercise their patience,” Asbell said. “I know it will get better.”

Ramping up a vaccination program has meant scaling back somewhat on the counties’ testing programs, which are operated by the same staff. In an effort to strike the right balance, Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties implemented a new testing schedule this week.

County test sites and the new times include:

  • Levy County: 9 a.m. Monday and Tuesday at the health department office, 66 W. Main St., in Bronson
  • Gilchrist County: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and Friday at Southside Park, S.E. 5th Ave., in Trenton
  • Dixie County: 9 a.m. Thursday at the health department office, 149 N.E. 241st St., in Cross City

People can test for free at any of the health departments and do not have to test in their home county. Results are generally available 48 hours after the test is administered.

People wishing to get tested should be in line by the start time. Anyone in line at the start time for testing will be tested.

People 18 years or older should bring their driver’s license or state ID. Anyone younger than 18 should be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The health department asks that people not eat or drink an hour before testing.

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