Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Calls for Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

CNW Reporter

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AstraZeneca says late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine were "highly effective'' in preventing disease. A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford prevented 70% of people from developing the coronavirus in late-stage trials, the team reported Monday Nov. 23, 2020. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool via AP)

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth has called on county and state health officials to fix the “glaring” inequities in the county’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Since Dec. 29, just 7 percent of the county’s Black and Hispanic eligible population had been inoculated compared to 70 percent of whites, according to statistics presented to the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday. Consistent with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order, Palm Beach County is only vaccinating long-term care facility staff, persons 65 years of age and older, and healthcare personnel with direct patient contact.

“Seventy percent versus 7 percent? I think we can do much better,’’ he said. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that we have a whole underserved population.’’

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Palm Beach County has vaccinated 130,027 people. That’s 8.7 percent of the county’s population, a higher percentage than Miami-Dade (5.7 percent) and Broward (6.4 percent) counties.

Weinroth challenged county managers and state health officials to “re-double the efforts as far as these underserved communities are concerned because it really is a glaring disparity we cannot accept. Shame on us for allowing this to continue this way.’’

Efforts have been made by churches to offer vaccinations to underserved communities. While the vice mayor applauded those efforts, he said more needs to be done by local government to wipe out the virus.

“We also have to do something about people who don’t trust us. There is a tremendous lack of trust and we have to make people feel that this vaccine is not going to kill them. That’s what’s apparent in these numbers,’’ he said.

Weinroth joins Daniella Pierre, the President of NAACP Miami, as public figures who have recently been pushing for equitable vaccine access in South Florida. The region is home to the largest percentage of Caribbean-Americans and Black population in Florida. At a recent press conference, Pierre called for educational outreach in the Black community via avenues besides the typically used churches and supermarkets, which could include hair salons, laundromats, or public transit stations.

Additionally, Weinroth joined commissioners in calling for improvements to the appointment reservation system.

“I think we all agree it’s been a case of ‘whack a mole’ where people have been going in one direction and then rushing in another,’’ he said.

“We need to have one unified vaccination reservation system where people feel equity, feel fairness and feel that if they get on the list on a certain date, their place on the list will be preserved and someone is not going to jump ahead of them because a site opened up with a couple of hundred doses.”