‘We just have to get the demand up’: Orange County officials aim to fight decreased interest in COVID-19 vaccines

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Think back to April 5.

That’s the day every Florida resident age 16 and up was eligible to get a vaccine.

Appointments were snatched up, and lines looped around.

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That week, 1,485,438 shots went into arms. Last week, about 1,111,000 people got a shot.

That’s a 25% decrease, and officials took notice.

“We may be experiencing now a slowdown in the pace or rate of vaccinations,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.

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Officials have seen it in the numbers, but also in the appointment bookings: Demings said they have roughly 11,000 appointments left.

“We’ve got plenty of appointments available this week at our Orange County Convention Center vaccination site,” he said.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings admits it’s hard to figure out why this is happening.

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“I’m not sure what has caused the apparent slowdown,” he said. “We just have to get the demand up.”

Right now, 38% of Floridians have received at least one shot, and 24% are fully vaccinated. To stop the spread of COVID-19, the state needs about up 80% of its more than a million residents to have immunity.

“One of the strategies that we are using is to try to make it more convenient for our residents to get vaccinated, and that’s why we’re using the mobile sites,” Demings said.

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Officials are going right into neighborhoods and communities offering the vaccine, hoping it helps get shots in arms.

With the vaccine being available to all adults in Florida for more than two weeks, officials think they are starting to run into the wait-and-see group: Those wanting the shot but still not ready to get it.

“Our goal is simple: We want to advocate for people to get the vaccine,” Demings said.

More vaccines are expected to be available this week than last.

In Orange County, 30% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Demings said he would like that to get to 50% before he eases the mask mandate.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.