Markham Park in Sunrise was packed with Broward school teachers and staff waiting to get their COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 23.
After a month-long dispute between the school board and the teachers union, the head of the district began a deliberate effort to get senior school employees vaccinated so they could co back into the classroom.
Broward County Public Schools partnered with the Department of Health in Broward County to make it happen. Superintendent Robert Runcie said that he continues to push for teachers and staff to be added to the priority list for vaccinations.
“We’re grateful to the Department of Health – Broward for partnering with our District to offer this opportunity to our older employees, as we continue to petition state and federal officials to recognize all teachers and school staff as essential employees who should be prioritized for vaccination,” said BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools also vaccinated its employees over the weekend. The school board partnered with Jackson Health System to administer the shots.
But while the school boards fight for local teachers to get their vaccines, the NAACP is advocating for the larger Black population in South Florida.
Daniella Pierre, President of the Miami-Dade NAACP, says more needs to be done to target African-Americans and Black people to get the vaccine.
“We acknowledge that there is a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccinations. However, they must be distributed equitably throughout all communities within the county,” she said. “For a community that had a year of fear and distress, and rightfully so, instead of just giving us a vaccine, please provide the education so it can lessen the fears that individuals may have.”
NAACP officials fear these communities are falling by the wayside in the pandemic. They are proposing a four-point plan for leaders to target certain ZIP codes and vaccinate those in need.
“Our barbershops, our hair salons, restaurants, all the places where Black people go need to be engaged and educated about the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Pierre.
Data from the Health Department reveals that statewide, only 5% of the almost 1.4 million people vaccinated are Black people. The South Florida region is home to the largest percentage of Caribbean-Americans and Black people in the state. Earlier this month, Florida Governor had announced new vaccination sites at predominantly Black churches to encourage residents in minority communities to get their shot.
While the state plans to increase its vaccination efforts to reach more residents, many seniors are waiting to get their vaccinations due to limited supply.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said a vaccine shortage should not affect those getting their second doses, it could limit the number of seniors getting their first.