Osceola County

‘I’m just curious why we’re being left out’: Osceola County has second-lowest vaccination rate in Florida

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Frustration is mounting in Osceola County, which has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the state.

Local leaders have said it’s not a matter of logistics -- they’re just not getting enough supply, and they’re wondering why similar-sized counties have gotten more.

“I’m just curious why we’re being left out,” said Jan Sheppard, an Osceola County resident who keeps trying to get a vaccination appointment.

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County Commissioner Viviana Janer said Osceola County isn’t getting its fair share.

“I hate to think that politics are being played with people’s health,” she said. “I suspect it, I definitely do suspect it.”

Without clarity from the state, those suspicions have grown, especially as the state’s Publix pharmacies partnership expands.

In the 18 counties where the state has partnered with Publix to administer vaccines, Palm Beach is the only one that didn’t vote for President Trump in 2020.

Although the state isn’t answering questions, Publix is. In an emailed statement, they told us, “The governor has focused on a heavy population of 65 and older, more rural areas and areas without an established system serving residents well.”

Osceola County is the state’s third-youngest county, but Leon County is the fourth-youngest and has twice as many people vaccinated there because of supply.

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Twice as many vaccinations have also happened in Lake County, which has almost the same total population.

Janer said her letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis noting that did lead to 2,900 more doses being sent.

“Really, that’s a drop in the bucket,” she said.

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With 800 doses a day at its mass vaccination site, that supply will run out quickly, and it’s unknown whether Osceola County will be prioritized in the next round. WFTV has repeatedly requested a distribution plan from various state agencies, but we’ve only received the state’s draft version dated October 16, 2020.

That’s despite the fact that two weeks ago, Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz told Central Floridians in an online forum that the state was working on a list and that there’s no reason people shouldn’t be able to see it.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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