Vaccine doses for Black Florida communities given to white residents

In Palm Beach County, where Black people make up 18% of the population, only 4.1% had been vaccinated as of March 1.

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Vaccine drives hosted for Black communities in rural Florida are instead being visited by wealthy, white residents who are then given the immunization against COVID-19 intended for locals.

Read More: California to give 40% of vaccine doses to vulnerable areas

According to STAT News, the farming communities of Pahokee, Fla. a city in Palm Beach County, have a population of around 60% Black people and one-third of its residents are Hispanic. However, many of the coronavirus vaccinations sent for residents have gone to white people. The report found that white residents of communities such as Stuart, West Palm Beach, and Miami, traveled to the rural area for their dose of the vaccine.

The outlet reported in Palm Beach County where Black people make up 18% of residents and Hispanic people 21.7%, each group had only received 4.1% and 4.7% of the given vaccines respectively, as of March 1.

 “It’s frustrating. But it’s the state’s decision not to allow us to do an appointment system at this location. It was their decision to make this first-come, first-serve,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay told the news outlet. McKinlay and Tammy Jackson-Moore, the co-founder of the Guardians of the Glades nonprofit, only learned details of the first vaccination drive the night before the event.

Bible-Based Fellowship Church In Tampa Offers Covid Vaccinations
Bible-Based Fellowship Church partnered with the Pasco County Health Department and Army National Guard to assist residents who are 65 and older to administer the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on February 13, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.( Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Florida governor Ron DeSantis enlisted supermarket chain Publix to facilitate the vaccine rollout and appointment scheduling however, for residents of rural communities such as Pahokee or Belle Glade, the nearest location is over 20 miles away.

Although Publix recently donated $100K to his campaign, the governor claimed it did not impact his decision, according to STAT. Organizers and other politicians pushed against the decision which resulted in the state’s Division of Emergency Management set aside vaccines for local distribution.

Once the vaccine drives were initiated, residents of the community and whomever else drove up, were able to obtain the shot due to there not being a registry for the health-service event. According to the outlet, numerous people drove miles to obtain the vaccines intended for the underserved community.

Read More: COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to African nations pick up speed

The vaccine sent to Pahooke is the Moderna brand which comes in 10 or 11-dose vials and according to STAT, once opened, all the doses must be used in six hours. Levis Bouffard and Mario Bureau were informed of the vaccine drives by a friend who warned them not to share the information so the supply did not run low, according to the report. The pair drove over an hour from Boynton Beach and asked when they would be able to purchase vaccines for their under-65-year-old wives.

Local residents of Pahokee have worked to spread the word about the available vaccines, especially after being vaccinated themselves.

“I don’t think there was much promotion,” said local resident Michael Assam to the news outlet as he texted friends the neccesary information.

Shellie Myers, a  70-year-old Pahokee resident was able to get a vaccine through the drive after being confused by the Publix registration system.

“I would have taken it as soon as I could have,” he said. “But I’m computer illiterate. A lot of people don’t have a computer and don’t have someone who can do that for them.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“There’s a lot of history, there’s a lot of trauma. That is the reason why a segment of our population does not believe that they have the same privilege and access,” said Jaime-Lee Bradshaw, chief strategic initiatives officer at Community Partners of South Florida.

The nonprofit organization employs the workers who provide after-care to patients once vaccinated as well as providing meals and contact tracing. They are not officially considered health care workers and in turn, are not on the front line for vaccines.

DeSantis has been previously called out for the vaccine rollout in the Sunshine State. theGrio reported the governor was accused of providing thousands of coronavirus vaccines to wealthy communites and ignoring all others. An alleged “VIP List” ensured who got priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the report, Republican Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh held the responsibility of fairly distributing the vaccine, but instead, she created a list with her name on it and her friends.

“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it and we’re totally happy to do that,” exclaimed DeSantis, according to theGrio. “So anyone that’s saying that let us know, if you want us to send it to Sarasota next time or Charlotte or Pasco or wherever let us know; we’re happy to do it.”

Additional reporting by Keydra Manns

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