PALM HARBOR — Those struggling to get the COVID-19 vaccine have another option after a pop-up vaccination site opened March 17 in north Pinellas County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement during a news conference at The Centre in Palm Harbor, where up to 750 vaccine doses will be administered each day for as many as 10 days.
According to the CSA Palm Harbor website, the site will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and no appointment is necessary. Both the Pfizer vaccine, which requires the two-shot series, and Johnson & Johnson, which requires just one dose, will be available at The Centre, Building 2, 1550 16th St.
Those eligible to receive the vaccine are:
• Persons 60 years of age and older;
• Persons determined to be extremely vulnerable by a physician;
• Health care workers with direct patient contact;
• K-12 school employees who are 50 and older;
• Sworn law enforcement officers and firefighters who are 50 and older.
Since demand is beginning to show signs of slowing, DeSantis said he plans to lower the age restriction from 60 to 55 sometime in March.
“We just want to make sure when we do the announcement that we don’t create a crush on the system,” he said.
Lowering the requirement to those 55 and older will mean about 1.5 million more Floridians will be able to receive the vaccine.
The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine might not be available, however, so he advised people not to wait on it.
“I can’t guarantee you there’s J&J going to be available next week or the week after or even, unfortunately, we’re looking maybe two to three weeks into the future where we don’t have J&J allocations,” he said.
Overall, he said the state’s supply of vaccine is “pretty stagnant” at the moment, with about 400,000 doses of Pfizer or Moderna expected to arrive in the next few weeks.
Once the supply ramps up again, he said restrictions will likely be drastically loosened.
“I think if we get the J&J to start flowing, a little bit more on Pfizer and Moderna, once that happens you’ll be able to open it up to everybody, I think,” he said. “Because I think the supply will be sufficient. We’re not quite there yet.”
He added that retail pharmacies were also expanding availability.
Beginning this weekend, he said, Walgreens was increasing the number of stores offering vaccines from 126 to 223. CVS was also increasing from 157 to 182 stores.
“Walgreens and CVS, this is their bread and butter. They do it very well. The more we can get those stores to have vaccine, I think the easier it is going to be for Floridians to be able to do it,” he said.
He added that the retail program was working especially well in Pinellas County, where pharmacies at 42 Publix stores, 13 CVS stores, 10 Walmarts and two Sam’s Clubs were offering the vaccine.
“So, that’s a pretty good footprint from a retail level,” he said.