PAHOKEE, Fla. — In an effort to vaccinate residents in rural, underserved areas of Palm Beach County, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced a new COVID-19 vaccination site in Pahokee.
DeSantis said the state is setting up a point of distribution, or POD, at Anquan Boldin Stadium for residents who are 65 and older.
"We're gonna be able to do at least 500 vaccines for seniors in the Pahokee area, which we think is very, very important," DeSantis said.
The governor said Boldin, a former NFL star wide receiver and graduate of Pahokee High School, worked with John Davis, the secretary of the Florida Lottery, to identify a need for COVID-19 vaccines in western Palm Beach County.
"We said, alright. We're gonna figure out a way to get some vaccines into the Pahokee area," DeSantis said.
"We feel like, out in The Glades, we're forgotten at times," Boldin said. "It's my job to make sure that the people out here are taken care of."
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Last week, officials announced that Florida is diverting a large supply of COVID-19 vaccines that were supposed to go to Publix, and will instead allocate some of them for underserved communities in western Palm Beach County.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district covers The Glades and other western communities, said Palm Beach County will receive 11,000 doses of the vaccine this week.
But only 600 doses are going to The Glades, according to McKinlay.
"It's just discouraging," McKinlay said at Tuesday's county commission meeting. "I can't sit here and say that I'm not disappointed in those low numbers."
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The commissioner added that of the 11,000 new doses coming to Palm Beach County this week, 6,000 will be used at new points of distribution, or PODs, throughout the county.
Currently, Publix is the primary distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County. But McKinlay and other local leaders have expressed concerns with that plan, saying it's incredibly difficult for residents in The Glades to travel to Publix to get vaccinated, citing the long distance and lack of transportation.
In some parts of western Palm Beach County, the closest Publix is at least 25 miles away, according to officials.
"For me, it was never an issue that Publix was a partner. My issue is that Publix was the only partner, which left out significant portions of our community," McKinlay said.
Publix said it booked more than 41,000 appointments on Wednesday morning for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The next appointment window will open at 7 a.m. on Friday.
DeSantis said Florida received around 307,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government this week, an increase of about 40,000 doses over last week. That extra allotment will be used to set up additional PODs and drive-thru vaccination sites, as well as replenish vaccine supplies at hospitals.
There will also be another POD set up in Okeechobee County on Thursday and Belle Glade on Friday.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 163,707 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, which is second only to Miami-Dade County where 180,299 people have been inoculated.