Published On: Sat, Jan 9th, 2021

Palm Beach County Faces Shortfall in Vaccine Doses as Demand Continues to Rise

by Robert S Weinroth

County Commissioners’ offices are being inundated by angry calls and correspondence from constituents demanding to know why the rollout of the COVID vaccine appears to have become mired in bureaucracy.

The constituent frustration is being taken out on the county but, in truth, there is little county officials can do to address the real issue, a lack of product.

The federal government has allocated fewer doses to Florida than was expected and the number of doses has actually decreased as the weeks have passed. This has left the Florida department of Health in Palm Beach County with the inability to plan from week to week how many appointment it can confirm, Dr Alina Alonso, FDOH-PBC director has indicated her staff is working to get the vaccine in the arms of county residents as fast as they can but the lack of vaccine has constrained their efforts.

According to State Emergency Management officials, the federal government sent Florida 495,000 in week 2. The plan was for the number of doses to increase thereafter. Instead, in week 3, Florida only received 289,000 doses and in week four the state only received 250,000 doses!

State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz is reported to have reached ou the the Biden transition team and he is hopeful that more doses will flow into Florida (and the rest of the nation) before the end of January.

According to the county health department, Palm Beach County received 20,000 doses of the COVID vaccine at the end of December, but the next week the shipment was cut by 75%, and only received about 4,500 doses.

County Mayor Dave Kerner updates community flanked by Commissioner Maria Lorts Sach and County Vice Mayor Robert S Weinroth

“The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now,” said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden’s transition. “He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office on January 20th.”

Here are the answers to FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the availability of the COVID vaccine:

Who is the lead agency for vaccine distribution in Palm Beach County?

The Florida Department of Health Palm Beach County (FDOH) is the lead agency for vaccine distribution in our County.

Who are the primary agencies in Palm Beach County supporting the State’s efforts to vaccinate its residents?

The Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, and the Health Care District of Palm Beach County are supporting State efforts of the FDOH-PBC to vaccinate high priority populations in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order, 20-315.

Area hospitals are dispensing vaccines to front line healthcare workers.

The Governor’s Executive Order prioritized three high priority populations to be first to get vaccinated:

Dr Alina Alonso updates community with County Mayor Robert S Weinroth and Commissioner Gregg K Weiss

Who is currently eligible to receive vaccinations in Palm Beach County?

  • Front-line health care workers;
  • Long-term care residents and staff; and
  • Individuals 65 years of age and older

How many doses of vaccine has Palm Beach County received to vaccinate its 400,000 high priority residents?

The FDOH-PBC received 20,000 doses on December 23, 2020, and subsequently received another 4,500 on January 4, 2021. Palm Beach County area hospitals received separate allocations directly from the State and must dispense according to the Governor’s Executive Order. These doses of vaccine are primarily for front-line health care workers. Long-term care facilities and nursing homes vaccinations are being managed under federal and state initiatives though partnerships with pharmacies (e.g., CVS and Walgreens) and special state teams to assist with the distribution.

How are the vaccines being distributed?

To date, there have been 23,188 vaccines administered to Palm Beach County residents. FDOH-PBC is vaccinating approximatley 500 people per day (including health care personnel and persons 65 years of age or older) that have requested an appointment through their email system. The Health Care District of Palm Beach County is vaccinating heath workers and existing Health Care District patients. Two communities selected by the state, King’s Point and Century Village Boca Raton, are being vaccinated with additional vaccine supplied by the state. We have been advised Century Village West Palm Beach is, likewise, scheduled to receive an allocation of vaccine directly from the state. All patients receiving the vaccine must have an appointment and complete consent forms (acknowledging the vaccine is being made available under an Emergency Use Authorization), with pre-screening questions answered prior to arrival.

How do I sign up for the vaccine?

If you sent an email to FDOH-PBC at [email protected] and provided your name, address, date of birth and phone number requesting a vaccination, it will be held in queue, and as doses become available, you will be contacted. Vaccination appointments are based on vaccine availability. Additional registration systems are being developed for future appointments. Stay tuned for information regarding this process.

Why am I having difficulty getting a vaccine?

There is a wide disparity between the number of vaccine doses received at the FDOH-PBC (about 25,000) and the high priority population eligible to receive the vaccine in Palm Beach County (over 400,000). This disparity between supply and demand has created a vaccination strategy challenge making it impossible to execute a large-scale vaccination operation at this time.

What is the long term strategy for vaccine distribution in Palm Beach County?

Over the next few months, as the supply of vaccine increases, our vaccination efforts and strategy will be expanded. This strategy will utilize:

  • Fixed regionally located vaccination centers (similar to our large testing sites);
  • Points of Distribution Sites [PODS] (smaller scale distribution sites in targeted neighborhoods);
  • Clinic operations (such as the FDOH-PBC and Health Care District Clinics); and
  • Mobile pop-up community sites (utilizing our “Hero” and Scout” mobile testing vehicles)

Where can I get more information about vaccine distribution?

If you are 65 years of age or older, watch for announcements from local health officials; federal, state and local government agencies; homeowners associations; and other recognized community sources regarding vaccine availability. Be prepared to utilize an on-line registration system or other alternative means to register.

What precautions should I continue to take to avoid contracting COVID-19?

Continue to remain socially responsible and take precautions to avoid spreading or contracting the virus. Wear your mask and avoid the “3 C’s” – crowded places, close contact, and confined and enclosed spaces.

I am worried that I won’t be able to get the vaccine!

Please be patient. The FDOD expects to receive sufficient quantities of the vaccine in the near future to initiate a large scale community vaccination program.

The Board of County Commissioners and the Health Care District of Palm Beach County are committed to the support of State efforts and the goal of getting as many of our residents vaccinated as quickly and equitably as possible.

L-R: Commissioner Maria G Marino, Vice Mayor Robert S Weinroth, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, Commissioner Gregg K Weiss, Mayor David M Kerner, Commissioner Maria L Sachs, Commissioner Mackenson “Mack” Bernard and County Adminisrtator Verdenia C Baker

Palm Beach County is ready, prepared and equipped to facilitate the mass distribution of vaccines. Our challenge is in the lack of supply. As additional doses of the vaccine are received, we are prepared to distribute them. The County has pledged to ensure that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be able to receive both doses in Palm Beach County.

For additional information related to COVID 19, please go to: Discover.PBCGov.org/Coronavirus

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Commissioner Weinroth serves as County Vice-Mayor and has been appointed Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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