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1,000 COVID-19 vaccines shipped to Palm Beach due to 'miscommunication'

County health department director takes 'full responsibility'
Palm Beach Fire Rescue Station No. 3
Posted at 3:18 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 18:13:31-05

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The town of Palm Beach received 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines due to a "miscommunication" among staff at the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, a spokesperson confirmed to Contact 5.

A spokesperson for the health department confirmed the 1,000 doses were for the initial round of shots, and the health department would be providing the second round.

The town requested COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 30, 2020.

"No further vaccination will be done for the Town of Palm Beach until more vaccine is made available and we coordinate with other municipalities," wrote a health department spokesperson in an email to Contact 5.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, met with state lawmakers. Addressing the delegation, Alonso said, "the one town that fire rescue got the vaccine, had to do with a period of one-day miscommunication that I was not able to get back to my staff."

After further assessment, Alonso told lawmakers that health department officials realized "we don't have sufficient vaccine to give all the cities that want to do this, so we stopped, but they had already gotten it."

"It doesn't make any sense that one city in Palm Beach County is getting the vaccines," said State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, in an interview with Contact 5. "It's a lot more than a miscommunication."

Slosberg was at Thursday's meeting with Alonso and believes the current distribution system is unfair to county residents.

"If it was for the town of Palm Beach plus other Palm Beach County residents, that's one thing, but it's just for the town... It's not equitable," Slosberg told Contact 5.

WEB EXTRA: Dr. Alina Alonso discusses distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to one city in Palm Beach County

Full statement below from Dr. Alina Alonso to a delegation of state lawmakers for Palm Beach County:

"The one town that fire rescue got the vaccine, had to do with a period of one-day miscommunication that I was not able to get back to my staff. Because originally, the reason we did the fire rescue paramedics was precisely so they could go out and give the vaccine. This particular city was ready to do it. They called my staff, 'We need 1,000 doses. We're ready to do it. We have appointments. We have it setup. We have everything ready to go.' They were given the vaccine. The next day I sat down with our partners at the county and emergency management, and we looked at our vaccine and what was coming and the uncertainty of having enough vaccine, and we said we cannot do that. We don't have sufficient vaccine to give all the cities that want to do this, so we stopped, but they had already gotten it. They had set up, they made all of their appointments, and they did a great service to their community. So, it wasn't something they did maliciously or wrong, it was a matter of my not being able to communicate fast enough to my staff, and I take full responsibility for that, and I did not communicate to them fast enough that we didn't have enough vaccine to do it."

The most recently available data specific to the town of Palm Beach shows the town has 383 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths.

In a letter to residents, Palm Beach Fire Rescue Chief Darrel Donatto credited the town's experience with distributing the swine flu vaccine in 2009 with helping respond to the coronavirus, noting the "plans were incredibly successful and resulted in us being prepared to do the same for COVID-19."

The town has around 5,000 residents who are 65 or older, according to Donatto. He noted in the letter, "We have also received a few complaints because people were unable to get appointments."

State Rep. Emily Slosberg
State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, says the town of Palm Beach is receiving a higher priority for vaccines than other areas of Palm Beach County.

The town has closed its appointment availability after allocating all 1,000 doses.

"I wish that we had enough vaccines for everyone today, but we do not," wrote Donatto. "Everyone who wants one will eventually have access to a COVID-19 vaccine."

"We've been receiving phone calls and emails from constituents who have a lot of anxiety. They want the vaccine," Slosberg told Contact 5.

Slosberg added she plans to ask Alonso to update how they are distributing COVID-19 vaccines and where they will go next.

"At this point ... we need to have the plan, the health department's plan [on] how they're distributing it countywide," Slosberg said.

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