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Here's how the upcoming storm season could impact Covid vaccine sites

The weather hasn’t been much of a factor when it comes to vaccinations, but that’s starting to change.
Credit: Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP
People exit after receiving vaccines at the FEMA-run vaccination site located at the Tampa Greyhound Track, on the first day the eligibility age dropped to 18 and up, Monday, April 5, 2021 in Tampa.

Despite our rainy weather, vaccine sites around the Tampa Bay region have kept operating. But, some rough weather has already led to a few sites shutting down on occasion.

As we enter storm season, that raises the question of whether there’s a plan in place for those vaccination sites.

It’s actually been a fairly dry season, and that’s good news when it comes to getting people vaccinated. But, pop-up sites, most re-enforced tents, are not built to withstand severe weather. And public health workers know in the coming weeks it’s likely rougher weather is coming.

"Everybody is beginning to turn attention to the coming season," said University of South Florida Health’s Dr. Edwin Michael.

RELATED: USF Health virologist Dr. Teng talks about the pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Dr. Michael says the topic is starting to see more discussion.

"If there was a storm, and we have to shut down, how do we? You know?  They’re beginning to think how best to address these kinds of problems," he said.

The weather hasn’t been much of a factor when it comes to vaccinations, but that’s starting to change.

Less than two weeks ago several sites were shut down for an entire day when rough weather blew through. Hundreds of people went without vaccines. Hundreds more had to be rescheduled.

The tent structures that house the largest state and county run sites have limitations that require at some point they be closed for safety.

Consider the threat of strong afternoon storms every day or, perhaps soon enough, something tropical.

That, Dr. Michael acknowledged, could lead to thousands of missed vaccine opportunities along with the challenge of rescheduling.

"And I know I was in one of the emergency meetings, they’re beginning to think, you know, about these kinds of issues," he said.

For now, in Hillsborough County, a spokesman said decisions are being left to the state, but the plan appears to be following the same protocols as last summer when pop up sites were used more for Covid testing.

The idea then was to suspend service when weather gets too rough, or, as was the case when Tropical Storm Isaias came through, temporarily take down some structures.

So far, they said they haven’t seen anything that severe. But they are thinking about it.

At the FEMA site at the Tampa Greyhound Track, they want people to know wet weather alone won’t dampen their efforts to get shots in arms.

RELATED: 30% of COVID 'breakthrough' patients show no symptoms, CDC says

"We want to give out as many as we can," said FEMA Site Commander Carol Covey. "I know it’s rainy weather, but we’re still here and we’re still operating today."

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