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Bay County Vaccine Appointments For Seniors Filling Up Fast

A volunteer received a shot of the experimental Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in March as part of a safety study.
A volunteer received a shot of the experimental Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in March as part of a safety study.

All coronavirus vaccine appointments for seniors in Bay County next week were booked within less than an hour after health officials notified the community on Friday.

"Unfortunately, it is a supply and demand type of situation that's going on right now," the county's Florida Department of Health Officer Sandon Speedling told members of the local chamber of commerce at a meeting that streamed online Friday morning. "A whole lot of demand and the supply is catching up."

The county has about 31,000 residents over 65, Speedling said. And its health department has so far received 3,000 Moderna vaccines. Five hundred were given to first responders, many of whom are younger, he said.

Before the chamber presentation he "had a flashback to last February when the testing was rolling out," Speedling said. And he expects the department's vaccine rollout to look very similar. "We're going to have to ramp up and catch up as we go."

Since then, 213 people in the county have died of COVID-19.

Right now, there are 84 people with the virus in county hospitals. Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen is recovering at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay, according to a statement from Mayor Greg Brudnicki that was posted online online on Thursday. Assistant City Manager Jared Jones is serving as acting city manager.

Within about a half hour after health department officials reopened online scheduling for the first doses of the vaccine, all 1,000 appointments had been filled.

Speedling says tens of thousands of people have been trying to schedule at the same time, phone lines have been busy and the website has experienced delays.

County officials say they'll notify the public again when they receive another shipment and can schedule more older people.

Residents may sign up to receive text message alerts notifying them when the next round of vaccines becomes available by texting "bayhealth" (with no space between the two words) to 888777.

"As soon as we get our vaccine in the health department, our goal is to push that out into the community within seven days."