Florida, Miami-Dade vaccination process is a mess. It desperately needs a shot in the arm, too | Editorial

the Miami Herald Board
·4 min read

Although we had months to prepare, vaccinating South Floridians against COVID-19 has proven harder than anyone expected. Too much of the process is in tatters. The roll-out, in Florida and across the country, torturous.

In South Florida, vaccines are flowing to wealthy Fisher Island, but not to Black communities. Hospitals have funneled precious shots to their benefactors, then overbooked appointments for everyday people and abruptly crushed the hopes of seniors so vulnerable to the disease and so desperate for the vaccine. Insiders whisper in friends’ ears: “Pssst, we’ve got some open slots over here . . .” It shouldn’t be this way.

It’s not simple; we get it. We need President Biden’s help, and meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis also holds many of the keys to our fate. But we can, and must, do better than this scramble-here, scramble-there vaccination system — as inefficient as it is cruel.

“The process has become a cross between the reality show “Survivor” and a toddler soccer game,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Editorial Board. If it weren’t so tragic, it might be funny — barely.

At 68,000 vaccinations a day, Florida already is exceeding daily goals that the state would have to meet under President Biden’s plan to get 100 million people vaccinated during his first 100 days in office. But the lack of a reliable supply of the vaccine flowing from the federal government has set off the helter-skelter process.

Having money helps

In Florida and across the country, there have been long vaccination lines — and people who jump to the head of them.

A Miami Herald front-page article on Sunday reveals that if you live in a ritzy Zip code — say, Fisher Island or Aventura — you are more likely to have already landed a dose of the precious vaccine. Somehow, that is not surprising, but it is not acceptable, either. COVID-19 has hit poor communities hard.

Local mayors are trying to fill the leadership void left by the state, which in turn is trying to fill the void left by the Trump administration.

A frustrated Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava signed an emergency order Friday that she hopes will give the county more control over the vaccination process by ending hospital overbooking, which has emerged as a major stumbling block.

Her move came after two of Miami-Dade’s largest hospitals canceled thousands of first-dose vaccination appointments because of the lack of supply or fear they could not meet the second-dose requirement. It’s a frightening turn of events for those who fought their way through the muck to get an appointment.

Offer of vaccines

Hospitals were initially entrusted to handle the vaccine distribution to senior citizens within the general public. It made sense. Those facilities have the personnel and the know-how. But their systems are proving faulty. And some hospitals have been accused of cronyism with donors and wealthy benefactors.

Carlos Migoya, Jackson Health System’s CEO, made a controversial offer — to give each of the 13 commissioners, 100 vaccination appointments to use as they pleased, with the mayor’s office getting an unknown number. Well intended, but it caused a stir during commissioners’ video meeting last week.

Wisely recognizing that accepting the offer would smack of favoritism, most commissioners publicly turned it down, although a Jackson spokesman countered the appointments were meant to reach underserved residents in communities commissioners represent.

Release supply

Levine Cava told the Editorial Board that she prefers a different tack in partnering with Jackson: “I was working with Jackson to expand access by working with community groups.” Indeed, no elected official should personally get involved in selecting people to get the vaccine.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber wants more grassroots help.

“Municipalities can help, but so can houses of worship and other organizations that tend to know who the most vulnerable are,” Gelber told the Board.

Within the city of Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez told the Editorial Board, “All we need is more vaccines. It’s that simple. Just give us more vaccines and we’ll find the people to administer it.”

This is a legitimate plea that backs up the governor’s call for more vaccine. This is a promise that the president, by pushing manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer, must fulfill.