Orange County Prepares for COVID-19 Vaccine – Freezers Ready for Hundreds of Thousands of Doses
In anticipation of an effective COVID-19 vaccine available to the public, Orange County has purchased cold storage devices, including ultra-cold storage freezers that can hold hundreds of thousands of doses at the required 80 degrees below zero temperatures.
In addition, Orange County has also purchased massive amounts of medical supplies needed to support the vaccinations (e.g., alcohol prep pads, bandages, needles, syringes).
“We’ve always wanted to stay one step ahead of this pandemic, and we knew there would come a time when a vaccine became accessible, so we started to prepare months ago,” said Orange County’s Director of Public Safety Danny Banks. “We didn’t want to have access to a vaccine and not be able to store it. With these cold storage devices, we can store 600,000 doses at any given time.”
Banks added that Orange County has already reached out to local partners that will likely play a role in helping with distribution. The goal is to have a plan in place to distribute the approved vaccine before it arrives, but the particulars of that plan will depend on the volume of vaccine received.
“If we receive limited volume, we would need to prioritize it to segments of the population who may be at higher risk, such as health care workers, first responders and assisted-living facility tenants,” he explained. “If we receive a larger amount, we can incorporate the same drive-thru model currently being used for COVID-19 testing. We have to see how much we get initially, do the math and proceed accordingly.”
The County views the entire region as a collective partnership when it comes to storing and distributing the vaccine.
“We’ve been meeting regularly with the Florida Department of Health, local hospitals and other regional partners to make plans,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “At the end of the day, residents are benefiting from the vaccination regardless of who they get it from, and that’s what matters most.”
Despite the County’s proactive approach, patience is going to be needed during the vaccination process. Currently at the County’s drive-thru testing site at Barnett Park, more than 7,500 people are tested per week and that does not include all the residents tested in Orange County, so even if these numbers are tripled when it comes to getting vaccinations, it will take 100 days to vaccinate a million people.
“As soon as we get the vaccine, we want to be able to get it off the shelf and into the arms of residents, but we’re asking everyone to be patient with the process,” said Banks. “We anticipate the state will open large regional vaccination sites and hospitals will also be vaccinating people, and we’ll also get direct shipments to distribute at our own sites. The important thing is we’re prepared.”
Photo cutline: Some of the storage freezers Orange County Government has acquired to store COVID-19 vaccines.