LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Today, Lee Health President & CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci provided an update on the health system’s plans for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers and the community.
“Here we are in 2021 with a vaccine in hand and a light at the end of the tunnel,” Antonucci said. “The goal of rapidly getting the vaccine to as many people as possible brings with it complex supply chain issues, but it is important for you to understand we have a dedicated group of leaders who are working together to get the vaccine out to our community. Lee Health, the State of Florida, Lee County and the Department of Health Lee County are working as a team to provide multiple points of distribution to get our community vaccinated. We all have the same goals of protecting people and creating herd immunity as quickly as possible.”
Antonucci explained that by collaborating, each organization can leverage their respective roles in the community to increase the number of access points to provide more vaccines.
Lee County and the Department of Health will focus on the general public with a vaccination site established at RSW. Lee Health has committed to providing support if needed.
Lee Health will care for special populations, such as health care workers, volunteers, and patients who qualify for the vaccine under the Governor’s Executive Order. They have also been working with CVS to vaccinate patients and employees at their skilled nursing facilities.
Two weeks ago, Lee Health received the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and set up clinics in two hospital locations where they administered about half the doses to their employees and physicians.
“We anticipate exhausting the initial supply by early next week. Admittedly, that is a little slower than we would have liked, but we had two major holidays to deal with and we are ramping up to our goal of providing up to 1,000 vaccinations a day,” Antonucci said. “As stewards of this community resource, we are also sharing the vaccine with other large medical practices so they can vaccinate their own staff. Last week we provided 400 doses to a regional medical practice for their providers.”
The health system has also assisted other frontline workers by launching a vaccination site exclusively for health care professionals who are not employed by Lee Health.
Starting today, patients at Lee Physician Group Primary Care Offices over the age of 65, or who have significant co-morbid medical conditions will receive vaccination by appointment only. Supplies are limited and the health system is reaching out to patients who qualify.
Lee Health is also offering vaccination for its Auxiliary Volunteers who fall within the criteria of the Governor’s Executive Order. The Auxilliary program was shut down early in the pandemic, as most of the volunteers are above the age of 65. Getting them vaccinated is the first step to welcoming them back.
“We have made great progress over the past two weeks. We have a robust plan in place to deliver the vaccine, and we have hired about two dozen additional nurses and customer service reps to help with vaccination sites, said Antonucci. “Demand for the vaccine is higher than our supply, and while we have been assured that more doses are coming, we ask for the community’s patience as we roll out new access points across our region.”
A virtual town hall is scheduled for Jan. 7, at 11 a.m., on the Lee Health Facebook page. The community is invited to tune in and have their questions answered.