PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County is phasing out its three mass vaccination sites and moving toward efforts to vaccinate the public using mobile units.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Since the middle of December, more than 160,000 shots have gone into arms at the mass vaccine sites operated by the Palm Beach County Health Care District.
But by the end of May, those sites will close.
"What we see is the vaccination rate in Palm Beach County is still going up, but there is such a saturation of vaccine and access now that the need for those mass sites has really declined," said Darcy Davis, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
Davis said thousands of appointments at county sites are going unfilled, and no-shows and cancellations are on the rise. The next step is to use three mobile units to go into communities once the sites close.
The health care district acknowledges Lake Worth Beach is one of the areas where it would like to increase vaccine administration.
An area along Lake Avenue and E Street is a hotspot for Hispanics who want the vaccine but may not be able to travel long distances to get it.
ZIP code vaccination data last month revealed only 25 to 40 percent of seniors in certain areas were vaccinated.
"I think we’ve seen the Lake Worth corridor actually had a low vaccination rate, so we're reaching out there, and a more updated map will tell us if there are other pockets," Davis said.
Pastor Valentin Fontanez said Tropical Food Market on Lake Avenue gets crowded with local Hispanics on weekends and weeknights, making it a great spot for a mobile vaccine site.
"How can we serve so the Hispanic community can get vaccinated? Because we almost always are left behind, and we can't do that. We have to do what we need to make sure the vaccines come to our communities," Fontanez said through a translator.
Fontanez said more Hispanics would get the COVID-19 vaccine if it was within walking distance to their neighborhoods or at places they already gather like Tropical Supermarket on Lake Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.
Pastor Henry Green at Payne Chapel AME Church in West Palm Beach said he has seen pop-up sites in local neighborhoods, but what is really needed is a mobile initiative on the weekends and after work hours.
"When you talk ... about coming to communities like ours, in the historic northwest [section of West Palm Beach], where we can't afford a day off to get the vaccination. Then probably have to take another day off to possibly recover from any effects it leaves for us," Green said.
Both Fontanez and Green have received the COVID-19 shot and are encouraging their church communities to get vaccinated.
Davis said the health care district is seeking input from local church leaders and city managers on where their mobile units are needed most.
"This is all a grassroots effort, and it really is about trust and trusting someone else to lead them to the vaccine perhaps," Davis said.