Mark Lander, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, reported a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases among seniors on Tuesday during the regular county commission meeting.
Landers presented charts showing the sharp drop in cases among those 65 and older coincided with the start of vaccinations in late December.
The chart showed peaks in July and December. Those peaks coincided with holidays including July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Cases spiked to their highest point in Marion County just after New Year’s, about a week after the count started vaccinating seniors. Since then, cases among the most vulnerable age group have fallen off a cliff.
“I think what’s interesting in this one is you look at the slope… very sharp, very steep, as opposed to the slope in July, which was more of a natural – there was no vaccines available – more of a natural burnout of this virus out of the population,” Lander said. “And so, it could be an indicator that vaccines really target that population and reduce the amount of infections.”
More than 68,000 people 65 and older or about 64% of seniors in Marion County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to DOH records.
With demand among those 65 and older waning, the state opened vaccinations for to those 18 and older on Monday. Additionally, the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared for 16- and 17-year-olds with parental consent.
Opening up the vaccine to most of the general population has resulted in a flood of appointments in Marion County. The Florida Department of Health in Marion County announced on Tuesday that it is scheduling 8,000 first-dose appointments this week to meet the demand. The county administered 7,167 first doses last week.
“Don’t wait – register today,” Lander said in a release. “We are working hard to fill these thousands of appointments and make the vaccination process as easy as possible, and we need you to register to make sure all our vaccine doses wind up in residents’ arms.”
The county has experienced a slight increase in cases recently, and Lander attributes that to spring break.
Lander also reported that the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is in short supply, especially locally. Only 3.3% of those vaccinated Marion County received the the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Residents looking to book a vaccine appointment can do so through the county’s site at tinyurl.com/marionCOVIDvax or call 352-644-2590. Additionally, residents can find appointments at local partners like Publix, Heart of Florida and CVS.
In Marion County, the following locations also offer vaccinations:
- Heart of Florida Health Center – https://www.myhfhc.org/covid-19-announcements-and-information/
- Select CVS Pharmacy locations – https://www.cvs.com/store-locator/cvs-pharmacy-locations/covid-vaccine/Florida/Ocala
- Select Walgreens Pharmacy location – https://bit.ly/2Ou3WMT
- Select Walmart and Sam’s Club locations – walmart.com/covidvaccine, Sam’s Club at samsclub.com/pharmacy
- Select Winn Dixie locations – at com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine.
- Publix Supermarkets – publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida