Florida encounters new issues with vaccine distribution

The COVID-19 vaccine has been available to some groups in the United States since early December, but now, as distribution plans are being implemented, new issues are arising.

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Jessie Larrinaga

People in eligible groups are trying to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as Florida and other states roll out their distribution plans. Issues with distribution arose because not all of the doses held were able to get to those who fit requirements. State and federal governments have worked to develop new plans.

Jessie Larrinaga, Managing Editor

My grandparents received their first dose of the vaccine in early January and scheduled an appointment for their second shot to be given on at the end of January. When I spoke to them about this, I learned of some of the issues that those trying to get their first and second dose are facing.  

Some people who receive their first dose have been unable to get their second within the four-week recommended period. This is because appointments to get the vaccine are difficult to schedule in advance, and some people just don’t have time.  

In all of the vaccine trials, the people who received it got their second dose at a three or four-week interval, so it isn’t well-known what the effects of receiving it late would be – it could significantly lower the effectiveness of the vaccine.  

Additionally, the current vaccine distribution is impacting different socioeconomic classes in different ways. Those in lower income communities are having a much harder time getting the vaccine.  

Minority communities have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, but people of color are statistically more wary of the vaccine and have said that they are less likely to get it. According to Politico, just five percent of vaccines have gone to black Americansdespite the fact that racial minorities are three times more likely to contract the virus.  

Because of structural and systemic racism, black people are more likely to have jobs that put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus, and they are less likely to receive the health care and treatment that is necessary when they get the virus 

This causes vaccine distribution to be tricky, because there is an inherent distrust in American healthcare by marginalized groupsAccording to the New York Times, “African-American patients tend to receive lower-quality health services, including for cancer, H.I.V., prenatal care and preventive care, vast research shows.”  

40-year study at Tuskegee also greatly damaged the faith that black Americans had in our healthcare system. From 1932 to 1972, black men with syphilis were lied to and given sham treatments by the Public Health Service so they could track the natural course of the disease. It has contributed to the distrust of the health system immensely and has compromised several health efforts since – including those to combat H.I.V., tuberculosis, and now COVID-19.  

This is just one major example of the racial injustices that have been found in healthcare, so it shouldn’t be surprising that minorities are hesitant to receive the vaccine, especially when it was tested and put out at such a quick rate.  

In Florida, many of the delivered vaccine doses haven’t been used. This isn’t because people aren’t waiting to get the vaccine. Older individuals who fit the requirements for receiving the vaccine are waiting impatiently, frantically trying to schedule appointments and doing everything they can to get their hands on a dose.  

So, what is the problem? 

Governor Ron DeSantis, rather than following CDC guidelines and offering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 75 and older and essential workers, signed an executive order stating that it would be offered to anyone over the age of 65.  

According to CNN News, “Thousands of seniors across the state waited in lines, some slept overnight in their cars or on lawn chairs to get inoculated at vaccination centers. Others maneuvered through jammed phone lines and crashed websites to get appointments.” 

DeSantis blamed the lack of follow-through with his distribution plan on hospitals and health officials. If our state government is unable to make a feasible plan and help with distribution, we are going to have a very difficult time getting the vaccine to those who are eligible.  

Florida’s state government failed to work with counties to reach these qualifying individuals in an efficient way. This would greatly speed up the process, and these counties could certainly use some guidance throughout this confusing time. DeSantis, however, continues to say that the state’s government should be hands-off.  

When U.S. president Joe Biden released his vaccination plan, which details sending the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to help with distribution, DeSantis was quick to criticize without considering the benefit this could have for the people of Florida.  

He said that Florida doesn’t need Biden to send in these FEMA centers, and that it was unnecessary in the state. But the White House Press Secretary was quick to the rebuttal, pointing out that Florida has distributed only half of the vaccines they’ve received from the federal government.  

Clearly, Florida has vaccine doses that they should continue to distribute. But distribution is facing problems, and rather than working with federal government, DeSantis was refusing to accept the help our state is being offered.  

Finally, on Feb. 1, Florida accepted $245 million from FEMA for vaccine distribution and storage costs. As of Feb. 2, 7.8 percent of Floridians had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, so we are moving in the right direction.  

Publix, Walmart and Winn-Dixie pharmacies will be offering vaccines to those who fit the requirements as Florida’s latest plan states. The next roll-out will include CVS Health and Walgreens. This will serve to add additional sites for distribution and hopefully more of the held doses will be used.  

Initially, Florida had only named Publix as the vaccine provider, and faced criticism because this wouldn’t benefit lower income areas who don’t have a nearby Publix supermarket. The chain is mostly focused in higher-income areas, and minorities are already at a disadvantage for receiving the vaccine. The South Florida Sun Sentinel says that Publix supermarkets are absent from predominantly Black areas in cities like Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Orlando.  

Obviously, there are many issues with vaccine distribution, and new challenges will continue to arise. The most important thing in this time is that government works together to propose new solutions to these issues, and if they can do that, we will get through this.