Marion hits 50% COVID-19 vaccination rate

A woman receives a vaccination at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County in this file photo. The county recently hit the 50% mark for the number of vaccinated residents. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Marion County recently achieved a 50% vaccination rate among all residents eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a report by the Florida Department of Health.

The local vaccination rate trails the state’s average of 57% of those 12 and older receiving at least one dose of the two-series vaccinations, as well as the single-dose version.

In Marion, 162,722 people have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The total also includes those who have taken the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the latest DOH report issued on June 25.

The state stopped issuing daily COVID-19 and vaccination reports in early June.

More than 53% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 45% of the U.S. population are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While President Joe Biden’s hope to hit a national 70% vaccination mark by July 4 seems unlikely, in Marion, the vaccination rate for those 65 and older has hit that mark.

“Our overarching goal was to get 70% of our seniors, our most vulnerable population, vaccinated by June 1. We achieved that goal,” wrote Christy Jergens, a spokeswoman for the DOH in Marion.

The 70% number is tied to the concept of “herd immunity.”

“When we look at herd immunity historically, it can be reached once approximately 60% to 80% of a population has been exposed to the virus (whether by vaccination or natural exposure.) When there’s sufficient herd immunity in a community, the virus has difficulty spreading to others because so many people are protected against it,” Jergens wrote in an email.

Demand for the shots, however, has slumped both in the county and nationally.

During the week of June 18-24, only 1,323 people received the vaccine in Marion County, according to DOH reports.

Due to the drop in demand, the county’s centralized vaccination site at the Paddock Mall closed on May 28, and the DOH started offering vaccinations at rotating locations in the community.

“Currently, we are taking the vaccine out to underserved parts of the community to enhance access to the vaccine. We’re going to a set group of locations for a five-week period on the same days and times to provide residents with a consistent opportunity at locations closer to them to get vaccinated if they wish to get the vaccine. We are providing a free $10 grocery voucher to people who get vaccinated at these locations,” Jergens wrote in an email.

The vaccine is also available at the health department’s office, 1801 SE 32nd Ave. Marion County Fire Rescue and Ocala Fire Rescue continue to vaccinate those at long-term care facilities and homebound residents.

Vaccines are also available at Walgreens, CVS, Publix and Sam’s Club locations, among others.

Marion County reported 32,123 cumulative cases of COVID-19 from March 1, 2020, through June 25, the most recent number available. From June 18-24, the county reported 110 new cases or a 3.4% positivity rate, according to state records.

To see the locations where the health department is vaccinating, visit http://marion.floridahealth.gov/events/index.html

Residents can continue to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment by registering online at Marion.FloridaHealth.gov (or register directly at www.tinyurl.com/MarionCOVIDvax). Residents without online access can call 352-644-2590 for information.

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