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Palm Beach County commissioners question where federal vaccine supply is going

County health director discusses big differences between state, federal vaccine supply
COVID-19 vaccination phases in Palm Beach County
Posted at 11:56 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 10:16:18-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Confusion surrounding who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under the current executive order issued by the governor was a major point of discussion in Palm Beach County's commission meeting Tuesday.

County health department Director Dr. Alina Alonso said at sites where vaccines are being given by the health department or health care district, only those listed in the governor’s executive order can be vaccinated.

That includes the following:

  • Long term care facility residents and staff
  • Persons 60 years of age and older (as of March 15)
  • Health care personnel with direct patient contact
  • K-12 school employees of 50 years of age or older
  • Sworn law enforcement officers 50 years of age or older
  • Firefighters 50 years of age or older

Pharmacies and sites receiving vaccines from the federal government can vaccinate school employees and day care workers of any age.

Alonso said Palm Beach County is somewhere between Phase 1 and 2 of vaccine distribution but said the governor still calls it Phase 1 because there is limited supply of vaccine available.

Among counties with populations larger than one million people, Palm Beach County is closely behind Broward County in the number of people vaccinated for COVID-19.

To date, Palm Beach County has vaccinated 303,065 people compared to Miami-Dade County at 420,198 vaccinations and Broward County's 310,804 vaccinations.

Alonso also discussed concerns over variants of the virus present in South Florida. So far, Palm Beach County has had 61 cases of the UK variant. Broward County has 227 cases of the UK variant, while Miami-Dade has had 80 cases. The counties have also had a few cases of the Brazilian variant.

Commissioner Mack Bernard questioned the lack of a vaccination site in the eastern part of the county, referencing that there are sites in south, west, central and northern Palm Beach County but nothing in the east.

County administrator Verdenia Baker said the northern Palm Beach County site in Palm Beach Gardens also serves the east side of the county. Bernard is pushing for a site to be opened on the east side where residents in West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and Lake Park can have access to the vaccine.

"Quit giving me this nonsense," Bernard said when he was informed by Alonso that there are limited supply of vaccines to open up another permanent site.

Baker chimed in and said there are discussions to open a site in Riviera Beach. However, Alonso revealed that she has finally obtained vaccination data from the state by ZIP code to determine where most people are vaccinated.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay suggested waiting to see that data to determine which part of the county may have the greatest need for another site.

Alonso said the goal is for the county to eventually step away from doing vaccines and leave it to the federal partners such as pharmacies.

McKinlay wanted to know who is choosing which pharmacies get federal vaccines, but Baker said that information is not known to the county since it has no communication with the federal government.

Sachs also asked for a map that had locations of federal supply vaccines.

County commissioners hope to get more information on where federal vaccines are going in Palm Beach County.