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Rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues in Volusia County with young people this week.

As of April 5, eligibility ages for COVID-19 vaccines have been turned over to the discretion of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available to anyone age 18 or older and the Pfizer vaccine to anyone age 16 or older. 

The Volusia County Fairgrounds vaccination site, operated by the county and the Volusia County Department of Health, is distributing the Moderna vaccine, while area pharmacies like Publix, CVS, Walgreens and others, may have other vaccines available. 

At the fairgrounds, individuals no longer line up in their cars and stick arms out windows to receive shots. The county’s vaccination efforts now take place in the Bill Hester Exhibit Hall.

NEW NORMAL — Brandon Santos smiles — under his mask, of course — for a photo after receiving his first COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. Santos, 43, who typically travels for work, has enjoyed working from home. He has been able to spend more time with his partner and their new puppy, Zia. “I think there’s some really good lessons I’ve learned,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the new normal we arrive upon.”

Once inside, prospective vaccine recipients are steered one way for their first shot and another for their second. After receiving a shot, individuals are directed to wait for 15 to 30 minutes to ensure there is no reaction to the vaccine. 

The Beacon spoke with a number of recently eligible Volusians, including Brandon Santos. 

Santos, age 43, lives near Osteen, and was excited to get his vaccination. 

He works as a dispatcher for firefighters in the Ocala National Forest. The pandemic has changed his day-to-day workflow quite a bit, but he said he has learned a lot about himself in the past year. 

“I really enjoy working from home,” he said. “I’ve been able to spend more time with family; we got a puppy.”

Santos used to spend anywhere from half to three quarters of the year on the road. Now he gets to spend more time with his partner and their new puppy, Zia. 

As the pandemic turns a corner, Santos said he is looking forward to seeing what the new normal has in store for everyone. 

Another local to recently get their first shot was Molly Mccann, 44. 

Mccann said she hopes plenty of people get their vaccinations to combat hospitalizations due to the virus. That, and she desperately misses traveling. 

Mccann had to cancel three trips in the past year — one to Yellowstone National Park, another to England, and a cruise. 

“I’ll be happy to just get out of Florida,” she said, laughing. “Maybe I’m just not meant to be a world traveler.”

‘IT’S RELIEVING’ — Jeremy and Deborah, both in their mid-30s, are pictured with their kids, Theo and Michaela. Jeremy and Deobrah live with Deborah’s mother, who has a heart condition, so they have isolated themselves since last March. “I could count the times I’ve left my property on one hand,” Jeremy told The Beacon. It hasn’t been easy. Their kids are both at an age where Jeremy and Deborah would like to see them socializing with others, but the decision to keep them at home was made to keep them as safe as possible. “It’s tough. You want your kids out there making friends,” Jeremy said. “What can you do? You just protect your family.” The two were relieved to receive their first vaccine shots at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. “It’s a big relief,” Deborah said. “We have hope. Maybe we can go back to normal. You have hope life can be restarted again.”

With so many more people eligible for vaccinations, there were fears that registration would begin looking like it did months ago — tens of thousands of people refreshing their webpages fighting over thousands of appointments — but so far, this has not been the case. 

“We’re not getting feedback that individuals are having long wait times in securing an appointment,” Volusia County spokeswoman Kate Sark told The Beacon. “Even with lowering the age limit for eligibility, it still seems we’re able to provide vaccines at a rate that is sufficient and not creating issues.”

The Volusia County Department of Health anticipates the vaccine supply will remain consistent. 

Vaccinations at the Volusia County Fairgrounds, 3150 E. New York Ave., are available by appointment only. To preregister, visit myvaccine.fl.gov. A representative from the state of Florida’s Sharecare platform will reach out to schedule an appointment when one is available. 

Area pharmacies, including Winn-Dixie, Publix, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens, are also offering vaccination appointments. Stetson University and area hospitals have also held recent vaccination clinics.

As of April 7, 162,267 individuals have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Volusia County, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. 

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