Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Tuesday January 5 hosted a panel of leaders and hospital CEOs to share the County’s plans for COVID vaccinations.
Plans call first for the vaccination of healthcare workers and seniors age 65 and older.
“This is a partnership for the most vulnerable in our community,” Mayor Levine Cava said. “We are truly in an emergency situation. We have activated our office of emergency management to coordinate the vaccine distribution county-wide.”
The Mayor said the good news is people want the vaccines, but the demand is greater than the available supply. “The goal is to provide tens of thousands of vaccines weekly, county-wide, so we’re activating as many vaccine sites as possible,” she said. “But they must be distributed equitably and fairly and those without internet access cannot be excluded.”
“As of this week, we have already vaccinated 30,000 people in the County,” Mayor Levine Cava said. “Just today Jackson (Health System) was able to schedule 12,000 additional appointments for seniors over 65.”
The Mayor announced a one stop hub to show where vaccines are available and how to register; www.miamidade.gov/vaccine with information in English, Spanish, and Creole.
She said the County is exploring the possibility with the state of offering vaccinations at drive-through testing locations. “If the vaccines aren’t utilized, they will be recalled and redistributed to another provider,” Mayor Levine Cava said.
Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach said, “This County is the undisputed hot spot in the state. Today more than 3300 new infections were reported. Everyone is united in this effort and our cities are prepared to do whatever needs to be done because lives depend on it.”
Representing the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Yesenia Villalta said she was working cooperatively with County agencies and the health care community to build vaccine capacity.
Broward County opened clinics and started appointments last week but Dr. Villalta said working closely with the municipalities in a coordinated effort was best for the community. She said there were plans to open additional vaccination clinics next week in Miami-Dade County.
Carlos Migoya, President of Jackson Health System, explained his vaccine appointment process and said, “If you get the first dose, the manufacturer says the second dose is automatic.”
“There are 465,000 residents in the County over age 65 – we think 50 to 60% will want a vaccine,” Migoya said. “If we can do 10,000 vaccines a week there’s the potential for more than 1.2 million doses by the end of April – about 40% of the population.”
Mayor Levine Cava was asked when vaccinations would be offered to people with auto-immune diseases. She replied, “Governor DeSantis sets those priorities. We heard today from Dr. Birx at the White House who said prioritizing seniors was good strategy. I think by February we should be ready for the next priority population.”
Steven Sonenreich CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center reported doing 650 vaccines a day with 6000 already done and another 11,000 scheduled in the next three weeks.
Baptist Health South Florida is a large medical system of eleven hospitals and 25 urgent care centers staffed by over 18,000 health care workers.
Executive Vice President Bo Boulanger praised those frontline workers who were “serving with resilience”.
“We offered the vaccine to frontline health care workers three weeks ago and have already vaccinated 8200 in four counties,” Boulanger said. “By the end of this week, we’ll have done 10,000 vaccines. We’re confident that all workers who want it can get it.”
He said the next category is the vulnerable patient population. His hospitals are developing an online registration system and looking for additional vaccination sites such as the FIU campus.
Mayor Levine Cava clarified that the homebound seniors the County was calling for vaccines were those “in the County’s direct care”. “These are people in great need obviously,” the Mayor said.
Conference presenters were asked if foreigners or part-time residents of the County were eligible for vaccines. The state health coordinator said no proof of residency was required beyond a picture ID. The Governor has said part-time residents qualify for the vaccine so its likely medical tourists would too. The principle concern was people being available for the second vaccine dose.