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Volusia County’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout continued with a distribution event at the Volusia County Fairgrounds.

On Wednesdays, the fairgrounds hosts a farmers market where vendors in tents sell fruits and vegetables; on Thursday, Jan. 14, tents staffed by Volusia County Department of Health staff administered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to people age 65 and older. 

The first people in line to receive their shots were former Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis and his wife, Judy Lewis. The two live in Lakeland but made the drive to Volusia County to get their first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots.  

SUPREMELY HEALTHY — First in line to receive their COVID-19 vaccine shots at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in DeLand were Lakeland residents Fred and Judy Lewis. Fred Lewis, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, teaches law courses at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Fred Lewis said he was thankful for the Volusia County Department of Health for their work. “It’s such a massive problem to get under control,” he said. The couple, both 74 years old, have been together since 1965.

“It’s comforting,” Fred Lewis told The Beacon. “It’s relaxing, because we’ve been so tense.”

Since December, the two have tried to sign up for vaccinations, and now, Fred Lewis, a law professor at Florida Southern College, can teach worry-free. 

“We can’t wait to come back in February for our second shot,” Judy Lewis said.

Another couple there to be vaccinated were New Smyrna Beach residents Roger and Margie Leman. Roger Leman said the two have been trying to sign up for  vaccination events since they began in Volusia County.

“I have a lot of comorbidities, so it’s important to me,” he said. “I have grandkids, I have kids; I don’t want them to be orphans, and I don’t want her,” he said, gesturing to his wife, “to be a widow.”

“I do it for him,” his wife said of getting the shot. “We’re going on 50 years of marriage. I do it for him.”

Volusia County has held a number of vaccination events now, beginning with a first-come, first-served event in Daytona Beach Jan. 4. Since then, all events have used the online ticketing platform Eventbrite to register attendees. 

The event at the Volusia County Fairgrounds, a one-day clinic as opposed to previous clinics that have taken place across two days, only had 500 doses of the vaccine to distribute. The last vaccination clinic, in Deltona Jan. 7, had 2,000 doses to administer across two days. 

Appointments for the Jan. 4 clinic filled up fast. Registration, which opened at 9 a.m. Jan. 13, was full by 9:01 a.m. Volusia County spokeswoman Kate Sark told The Beacon that the webpage for the event saw some 200,000 individual page views. 

With 200,000 people competing for 500 shots, there were bound to be people left out.

“It’s like digital musical chairs,” Sark said. “There just aren’t enough chairs for everyone.”

LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER — In the driver’s seat is David Griffis with his wife, Jennifer Griffis, in the passenger seat and her mother, Dawn Godwin, in the back. Jenniffer Griffis is not old enough to receive her COVID-19 shot yet, but her husband is 66, and her mother is 80. “I haven’t gone to the grocery since this all started,” Godwin told The Beacon. She said her daughter has helped her the entire way, from grocery shopping to scheduling her vaccination. David Griffis said he was thankful they were able to get their shots, but wished there was more supply available so everyone who wanted the vaccine could get it.


Booster shots for baby boomers

Among the groups of people sitting in their vehicles after receiving vaccinations were David Griffis, his wife, Jennifer Griffis, and her mother, Dawn Godwin. Jennifer Griffis, with her family members, was not old enough to receive the vaccination. 

Godwin, who is 80 years old, said she was very happy to get the first shot. 

“It’s wonderful to get it over with,” she said. “I haven’t gone to the grocery since this all started.” 

Godwin said her daughter has helped with many things, like grocery shopping, to prevent her from possible COVID-19 exposure. 

“By choice!” Jennifer Griffis added.

“We’re very happy to have it done,” David Griffis said. “I just wish there could be more sites so everyone could get this shot.” 

Volusia County spokeswoman Kate Sark told The Beacon that the limited number of shots was due to the Volusia County Department of Health not receiving a new shipment of vaccinations the week of the event at the fairgrounds.

The number of our neighbors with their first defense against COVID-19, which has killed more than 23,000 Floridians, continues to grow. As of Jan. 12, 17,530 Volusia County residents have been vaccinated, according to data from the state Department of Health.

“We’re very grateful,” Dawn Godwin said. 

For more information about future vaccination events, visit the Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination page here

The Beacon will continue to update our COVID-19 Q&A with more information about COVID-19 vaccination as we receive it.

KEEPING WATCH — After receiving their COVID-19 shot, people were directed to sit in their cars for 15 minutes under supervision of paramedics and volunteers like Brittany Chaney, who is keeping an eye on everyone. Chaney, a Sanford resident, is a volunteer with Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that aims to bolster emergency response staff. “We want this to be as smooth as possible,” she said. Chaney is a Navy veteran and in the past year has regularly responded to COVID-19-related emergencies like food distributions.


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