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First responders bring COVID-19 vaccine to isolated senior citizens

West Palm Beach firefighters administer COVID-19 to senior citizens on Jan. 15, 2021.jpg
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 23:35:06-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — 79-year-old Dalia Villacella got her COVID-19 shot at her living room table on Friday.

“I’m feeling safer, more protected now with the vaccine,” Villacres said through a translator. “I’ve been waiting awhile.”

West Palm Beach frontline workers vaccinated 200 seniors Friday in Southridge, a largely Hispanic community of people over 65.

“They basically need us to come out here to them, because they don't have the means to get to where they need to go to get the vaccine,” said West Palm Beach Deputy Fire Chief Brent Bloomfield, who organized the outreach program.

The help from West Palm Beach’s police and fire departments comes at a challenging time to get vaccines to minorities over 65.

Figures from the Florida Department of Health show that out of 849,000 people who have been vaccinated, less than 5% are African-American. Health officials say vaccinating the Black and Hispanic Communities is a top priority.

“Black and brown folks have not been top of mind for folks who are in charge of making decisions about how this vaccine gets rolled out,” said state Rep. Omari Hardy, whose district includes Lake Worth and much of West Palm Beach.

Hardy notes Black and Hispanic communities have suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus and should not be at the end of the line for the vaccine.

The state representative says the situation may improve this weekend when people can get vaccinated Saturday at the Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, and Sunday at the Greater Bethel Primative Baptist Church in Riviera Beach. Both churches minister to predominantly African-American communities.

In the Southridge neighborhood in West Palm Beach, most seniors welcomed the frontline workers, though a few had a change of heart and turned down the vaccine that they signed up for earlier in the week.

But not Villacres.

“I had some trepidation at first,” she said through a translator. “But I’m excited about it now. I’m comfortable with the science.”