ORANGE EDGE, Florida. – Orange County health officials no longer have access to a critical state database that provides local decision-makers, including on the prevalence of COVID-19 vaccines.
The move to deny Orange County access to the Florida Department of Health database came after the county handed over three heat cards as part of a request for public records.
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The cards show the prevalence of post-vaccine vaccines and do not disclose any released or personal information. WFTV was the first to report on government access to the database.
News 6 has been asking for similar public records from the Florida Department of Health since January. However, no records were provided by the state. DOH officials have also ignored News 6’s requests to update the status when reporters can expect the recordings.
Under the Florida Sunlight Act, employees are expected to provide public records for a reasonable period of time. The records may be kept by the public if the information is considered released under state law.
News 6 contacted state and county health officials to find out what information could be considered released in the heat cards provided, but received no response.
“The county is not taking any legal action,” said Orange County Public Information Officer Kelly Finkelstein when asked if officials were considering forcing them to lose access to the database.
The maps are a few weeks old and show lower-income neighborhoods, including Pine Hills (32808 and 32804), have less common vaccines than higher-income historical communities such as Winter Park (32789 and 32792).
News 6 asked Mayor Jerry Demings for comment on discrepancies in the distribution of vaccines.
Orange County Commissioner Myra Uribe said the data cut on Wednesday was the first time she had seen the state’s zip code.
“I want to know which communities have not been vaccinated,” Uribe said. “If the state knows who they have vaccinated, they need to share that with us so we can focus on the areas we lack, where we are low.”
Uribe said it’s important to know which zip codes have low vaccination rates, as these areas probably need better vaccination messages due to hesitation.
“I think it’s time. We have gone through this tide that is coming through. “Now we have to go through the weeds to reach individuals and make sure they have that opportunity,” Uribe said.
This is an evolving story and will be updated throughout the day as we learn more. Follow News 6 Meris Badcock on Twitter for up-to-date information.
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