Older residents in Escambia County lined up at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola on Wednesday, to get their first COVID-19 vaccination in the two-shot Moderna protocol.
On a sunny, chilly day the line formed outside the church’s activities center. It was appointment-only, and they filled out the paperwork as they waited and inched forward towards the basketball courts that housed the check-in, the vaccinations and the check-out.
The event also played host to a number of state officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Well good morning, it’s great to be back in Pensacola; I want to thank Olive Baptist Church and Ascension-Sacred Heart for hosting us today,” said the governor, at the start of his remarks.
This is, in effect, part of the second wave of inoculations for Florida – residents 65 years of age and older. It follows the initial doses given to front-line medical workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
“Send a lot of doses to hospitals, they were working through their key staff, doing that and doing that well,” DeSantis said. “But we told all the hospitals, ‘Look, you’re going to do that [and] that’s important. But we need to be ready to go into the community, particularly vaccinating our senior citizens. And that is going to be our priority when we’re talking about the broader community.”
Ascension-Sacred Heart’s plan to distribute the vaccine to seniors was submitted and approved by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. DeSantis announced two new vaccination sites to be run by Sacred – at Olive Baptist and the Milton Community Center.
“You look at that line, people are excited; they have a very good setup in there,” said the governor. “Very efficient, very good, and I think it’s going to be great. They’re locked and loaded to do 1,000 a day for next two days here, and at probably the [Milton Community Center]. We may ask for more vaccine, we made sure that was something that was done.”
“Between the two mass vaccinations sites, we already have 3,500 reservations; so we’ll have 3,500 minimum vaccinated by the end of [Thursday],” said Justin Labrato, Chief Operating Officer for Ascension-Sacred Heart Medical Group.
“In the future, we’re going to have those appointments at getsacredheart.com,” said Labrato. “So when they’re available, they’ll be on that website.
Since March, Sacred Heart has administered nearly 62,000 drive-thru coronavirus tests.
“That’s great that we can COVID test; but it’s all about the vaccine,” Labrato said. “The vaccine is the only way that we’re going to make a dent in this. So, we’re excited about these future dates.”
WATCH LIVE: Press Conference in Pensacola https://t.co/WJ39zjB6jh
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 6, 2021
“We’re honored here at Olive Baptist to try to bring our community together; somebody asked me that, ‘It must be a miracle of God – you’ve got the Catholic and Baptists working together,’” said Rev. Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist. “I said, ‘Amen, that’s a good day.’”
“You can see these folks who are serving our community that are here,” Traylor said. “It’s just a good day when we can reach out and try to help our community.”
COVID-19 vaccinations in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are being given against the backdrop of a continuing increase in the numbers of cases.
“Currently, we are at 268 hospitalizations, which means the last three days – January 4 we’re at 248; January 5 [at] 267 and January 6 at 268,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, quoting the latest hospitalizations from Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida Hospitals.
He also urges patience, as additional doses of vaccine roll into the area.
“We can’t give everybody the vaccine tomorrow; but we ask that you work with us, be patient with us, continue to follow the protocols that we’ve done,” Robinson said. “And we will be getting vaccines out there to you. All of these things are moving forward.”
The mayors of the largest cities in EscaRosa are sending letters to their respective county commissions, requesting the state to set up a vaccine site in the two-county area, similar in size and scope to the testing facility that was at the University of West Florida.