Central Florida COVID vaccination rates improving as omicron variant arrives

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida’s first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant was confirmed Tuesday by a veterans’ hospital in Tampa.

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Florida reported its first case of the delta variant on June 1. At that time, just 39-percent of the state was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

READ: Omicron concerns drive Central Florida residents to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters

Now, with the first omicron case confirmed, more than 60-percent of Florida is fully vaccinated.

Local health officials say vaccinating a majority of the population is key to saving lives and preventing medical systems from being overwhelmed.

“People are getting vaccinated in large numbers in the United States and around the world,” emergency medicine physician Dr. Rajiv Bahl said. “Most importantly, here in Central Florida, we’re seeing about 72 percent of the population actually having their first dose and over 60 percent having both doses.”

At the height of the pandemic, over the summer as the Delta variant was sweeping across Florida, just one Central Florida county had more than 65 percent of its population vaccinated.

READ: Crowds continue to gather in Florida as health officials keep watch for COVID-19 omicron variant

On August 1, Sumter County- home to The Villages- had 69-percent of its population vaccinated. Today, the county has 77-percent of its population fully vaccinated, the best in the area.

Another four Central Florida counties- Brevard, Lake, Orange and Osceola- have at least 60-percent of their population fully vaccinated.

Dr. Bahl says the numbers are encouraging.

READ: Omicron confirmed in nine African countries, say officials

“Moving forward, it’s definitely reassuring for the entire healthcare community and public health as a whole,” Dr. Bahl said. “Having people get that vaccine not only protects you around the variants that have already passed, but the variants that we have coming up into the future.”

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