Levy, Gilchrist, Dixie counties poised to offer second vaccine doses

Vaccine administration
Vaccine administration

Amid heavy demand for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties are preparing to begin administering their initial set of second doses next week.

On Thursday the three counties’ health departments learned their weekly allotments would begin to include enough vaccine for the departments to start giving second doses, said Wesley Asbell, the public information officer for the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties.

The three-county region began giving Moderna-made vaccine doses on Dec. 29, 2020. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine is given at 28 days after the first dose is administered, so the counties’ first recipients will need their second doses around Jan. 26, which is Tuesday.

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The group getting second doses next week will be frontline health care workers and some of the health department staff, which is has been involved in both COVID-19 testing and vaccine administration.

The FDOH tracks how many doses have been administered by their county health department offices and who has received doses.

“We will know week by week how many we gave and how many are due their second doses,” Asbell said in a phone interview Thursday.

Because vaccine allotments have been somewhat unpredictable in terms of size and scheduled arrival, the three health departments have not pre-scheduled the second dose appointments.

The clinic days for second doses will likely be separate from the clinic days for first doses. And for now, the counties plan to individually call each of the people who have had their first doses and schedule their second doses as the second doses come in, Asbell said.

Because the counties’ health departments are all branches of the same state department of health, people can get their doses other places than their home counties. But each county’s supply of the second dose of the vaccine is will be based on how many people got their first doses in that county.

And for now, people who got their first doses in Levy, Gilchrist and Dixie counties will be the priority in getting their second doses there, Asbell said.

People who got Moderna first doses elsewhere and now want to get their second dose in one of those three counties will likely go on waiting list.

“We’ll work on that for [them] but it may take a little longer,” he said.

The three counties are not giving first or second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech-made vaccine.

As of Tuesday, Levy County had vaccinated a total of 954 people with a first dose; Gilchrist County had vaccinated 862; and Dixie County had vaccinated 809.

The counties don’t yet know how many doses will be available for first-time recipients until they receive their weekly allotment. Once they know, the counties will open appointments and schedule people through a call-in system.

Eligible people—full- and part-time residents 65 and older, first responders and frontline health care workers—can monitor the FDOH websites in each county for notices about when the appointment scheduling is open.

Residents in Levy and Gilchrist counties also can sign up for text-alerts on vaccine appointment availability.

In Levy County, text LEVYVACCINE to 888-777 to get alerts.

In Gilchrist County, text GILCHRISTVAX to 888-777.

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