Town Shores, a 55 plus community in Gulfport with 1,327 condominiums, and well above 2000 residents, was perhaps one of the more COVID-19-vulnerable areas in Gulfport.
In an effort to alleviate technology pains and reach more seniors, Irene Gernon, president of the Town Shores Master Association, teamed with Pinellas County Emergency Management and the City of Gulfport to bring 600 vaccines to the Gulfport Recreation Center.
“I wanted to do something for this community,” Gernon said. “I felt it was my responsibility. There’s so many people here not comfortable using a computer.”
Difficulties with the Patient Portal online platform, which crashed in January, as well as shortages across the state, many Town Shores residents have been unable to register for the vaccine – and some had given up hope.
Gernon, not yet eligible for the vaccine herself, reached out to the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County in December.
“I asked if there was any way I could receive vaccines for the seniors here,” Gernon said. “They basically laughed at me.”
On January 28, Gernon got an email from Pinellas County Emergency Management; the condominium community was approved for 600 vials.
“Now I had a plan with logistics,” Gernon said.
The Master Association President and her staff, Teresa Williard and Susan Blankenship, went to work sending emails, newsletters, and going door to door to alert senior residents about the opportunity.
By the launch day, February 10, 440 seniors signed up and were ready for the first dose; the second shot will be administered on March 3 at the Recreation Center once again.
That same day, the remaining 160 vials were administered to Florida residents in need of the vaccine.
“Not a drop was wasted,” Gernon said.
“After every Town Shores member who was eligible and willing signed up, we opened up the vaccines to any other Florida-based senior,” Pinellas County Emergency Management program lead Mecca Serfustini said.
According to Serfustini, due to the large senior population in Pinellas County, this program is unique to St. Petersburg and surrounding areas.
Vaccine pop-ups, typically at senior centers and elder living communities, will continue within Pinellas County; however, at this time, the Gulfport Recreation Center and City of Gulfport have no plans to launch another event.
“We met the need here,” Gernon said.