Millennium Physician expects limited COVID-19 vaccine in a few weeks but not certain

Liz Freeman
Naples Daily News
Cars park at vaccine stations during a COVID-19 vaccine distribution run by the Collier Department of Health at North Collier Regional Park on Monday, January 4, 2021.

One of Florida's largest independent physician practices announced it has been approved by the state to receive and administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

Millennium Physician Group said Friday it is waiting for a shipment of the Moderna vaccine to start giving to patients 65 and older with risk factors.

Dr. Alejandro Perez-Trepichio, chief medical officer, said he doesn't know how many doses they will receive or when precisely that will be.

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“The Department of Health and the state are indicating it should be soon but it can’t give a date,” he said. “They are telling us in the next couple of weeks or couple of months. It is vague."

Millennium will reach out to patients to schedule vaccination appointments when the time comes; the practice is telling patients not to call Millennium because there will not be a waiting list, he said.

“Because I don’t think that is fair,” Perez-Trepichio said.

Since it is uncertain how many doses will be shipped, the plan is for Millennium to contact patients 65 and older based on medical conditions that put them at greatest risk, he said.

Statewide, Millennium has 450,000 patients. There are 250,000 patients in Lee and Collier counties, and roughly have of those are 65 and older, according to Millennium spokeswoman Liza Fernandez.

Millennium sent email notices to its entire patient base to update them on the status of the vaccine availability. It encouraged patients to continue trying to get vaccinated elsewhere, such as at county health departments and Publix.

More:Which Publix stores in Collier County are offering COVID-19 vaccines? Here's a list.

The Collier County Medical Society is also recommending patients continue checking the health department and Publix vaccine websites.

“Physicians will inform their patients if and when their offices are able to begin administering vaccines,” April Donahue, executive director of the medical society, said in an email Friday.  “We extend our thanks to the public for their patience as we wait for the allocated vaccines to arrive.”

State data shows nearly 1.4 million people have been vaccinated in Florida. In Collier, 23,226 have been vaccinated and 43,199 in Lee.

Southwest Florida hospitals have received limited doses for the community and have asked patients not to call the hospital switchboards making inquiries.

On Friday, the NCH Healthcare System issued a reminder that its limited number of doses have been allocated and the state has not released vaccines to physicians associated or employed by NCH.

“Additionally, we ask community members to refrain from calling physician offices for the vaccine,” NCH spokesman Shawn McConnell said in an email.

“Community physicians do not have any vaccine nor do they have special access to the vaccines available through state or community agencies authorized by the state to administer it.”

NCH has vaccinated about 2,900 employees of its roughly 5,000 employees. The Lee Health System, the largest hospital operator in Lee, has vaccinated half of its 13,500 employees.

Millennium began working several weeks ago to get registered with the state for receiving and administering the vaccine, and that was granted, Perez-Trepichio said.

They did get a supply of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago to vaccinate several hundred front-line providers, physicians and nurses in Lee and Collier, he said.