WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County Commissioner Greg Weiss said he wants the Health Care District of Palm Beach County to take extra steps in its plan to find out if 60,000 residents on the COVID-19 waiting list still want the vaccine, saying it's important to make sure residents waiting to be vaccinated aren't inadvertently removed.
"Let's look at taking maybe an extra step or two and see if we might be able to ensure that we don't pass people by," Weiss told Contact 5 in an interview.
Last week, the county's Health Care District announced it would send out emails to residents still on the waiting list if they still needed a vaccine. The email would ask those residents to confirm they still wanted the vaccination. Seniors would have 24 hours to answer the email.
In a news release, the Health Care District urged residents to check their spam or junk folders for the email if they don't see it.
Those who don't respond to the first email would get a follow-up email before ultimately being removed from the waiting list.
Nancy Pullum, an elderly advocate who lives in West Palm Beach, told Contact 5 she was concerned about the county Health Care District's plan.
"It instills panic and frenzy in people who are already out here really challenged in trying to figure out how to get a vaccine," Pullum told Contact 5. "It just kind of set off an alarm to me."
In an email last week to County Administrator Verdenia Baker, Weiss wrote, "This new process for HCD to clean up the DOH sign-up list may have some unintended consequences and cause additional confusion and anxiety for some of our seniors."
Weiss suggested the Health Care District also contact residents via text messages and phone calls, noting he believed "many signups have been facilitated by family and friends for seniors unfamiliar and/or not computer literate," and those family members may not live in South Florida and not know to expect this confirmation email.
"Nobody wants to have anybody miss out on this opportunity, and we want to get everybody vaccinated as quickly as possible," Weiss said.
Pullum worries those who read the email without following the instructions could just give up on getting the vaccine instead.
"I've seen people who say, 'I'm just going to stay at home and wait,'" Pullum said.
Robin Kish, a spokeswoman for the Health Care District, released the following statement to Contact 5:
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County sent the email campaign only to the 60,000 people on the Department of Health-Palm Beach County waitlist from whom we have not heard anything. Those individuals who completed an appointment request with the Health Care District are still in our virtual waiting room. Currently, the Health Care District is in the process of reviewing the thousands of responses received from the email campaign to determine remaining interest. The plan is to remove the names of individuals on the DOH waitlist who respond that they do not want the Health Care District to provide them with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of what is a complex process.