Seniors braved long lines at Daytona Stadium for a Moderna shot.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Daytona Beach resident Earl Robinson, 78, was administered the coronavirus vaccine on Monday at Daytona Stadium.
He was one of 2,000 senior citizens who received the Moderna vaccine distributed Monday and Tuesday. The distribution was sponsored by the City of Daytona Beach. The vaccine was administered by the Florida Department of Health of Volusia County.
“I decided to do it. I originally planned not to,” then I heard about the new strain,’’ Robinson said Monday at the stadium. “They also say people who don’t have underlying conditions are catching the virus and dying. So, I’d better go ahead and get it.”
Robinson was one of the seniors who camped out the night before despite Daytona Beach police urging people not to do so.
On Monday night, people were allowed to camp out as gates opened at 7 p.m. for those getting vaccinated on Tuesday.
“So what? People did it anyway. I came out here at 10 o’clock last night. The traffic was back to Highway 92,” Robinson told the Daytona Times.
Traffic was backed up on LPGA Boulevard on Sunday and Monday night.
On Tuesday and Monday mornings, the allocated amount of the vaccine had been reached.
There were reports of long lines as well as periods of steady traffic flow.
Robinson said Monday that he didn’t mind the wait. “It’s not too bad,” he stated.
‘Problematic’ first day
Elected officials also addressed seniors camping out.
“I am disappointed. I don’t think it’s fair. I think there was a better way. I’m not bashing the health department. They felt it was the best way and the easiest way to get it done quickly,” said Volusia County Councilwoman Barbara Girtman.
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry added, “The first day was problematic. The second day was as smooth as it could be without appointments. Organizers learned a lot. It’s great to see so many people get the vaccine. I hope this enthusiasm is sustained until we meet the numbers needed.”
Health care officials attributed the long lines and camping out to the high demand and limited supply. A second dose of the vaccine is required within 28 days.
“Our initial supply was extremely limited,” Florida Department of Health-Volusia Administrator Patricia Boswell said during Wednesday’s press conference at the Volusia County Emergency Management Office.
“Things have not gone smoothly as we would have liked but we learned from it and improved our processes.”
A critical need
Health care officials say vaccine is critical to ending the pandemic.
“The vaccine is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus and adding one more layer of protection,” said Boswell.
“Also, follow the CDC guidelines including hand washing, masking up and social distancing,’’ she urged.
County officials believe it’s detrimental that local governments work with health care agencies to address COVID-19.
“It’s critical that the county be a part of the coordination of these events. We need to be able to help allocate resources for these events,” said Girtman.
Henry touted the city’s role in providing the vaccine.
“We were the first city in our county to help financially with utilities and housing subsidies. We were the first to do testing. I am honored that we are the first to offer and host the vaccine,” he said.
“I think we as a city have been able to provide leadership and set an example, which is positive. We are saying COVID is extremely serious. We want to address it every way that we can.”
As of the Daytona Times’ Wednesday deadline, there were 23,855 confirmed cases in Volusia County and 458 deaths.
The health department says cases are rising and 3,000 new cases were reported over the recent two-week period with a 10.3 percent positivity rate.
The Thanksgiving holiday played a role, and the Christmas holiday could bring another surge.
“The stats paint a clear picture,” Boswell said. “The virus is surging. A significant number of these cases are from household clusters and outbreaks at facilities. We are seeing more hospitalizations and, unfortunately. more deaths.”
Black concerns, worries
As an African American, Robinson said he is concerned with how the virus is disproportionately affecting people of color.
Blacks make up 2,578 cases (11 percent), 174 hospitalizations (13 percent) and 46 deaths (10 percent) in Volusia County.
“I am very concerned. I hope others come get the vaccine,” Robinson said. “I am encouraging my friends to take it. I understand what happened with our people in the past like with the Tuskegee experiment, but I think we’re past that now.”
There are plans for more vaccination events in Daytona. There could be events in the Black community and Midtown.
Need more vaccinations
“We want more people to get vaccinated,” Henry said. “We’ll be aggressively campaigning for vaccinations, including in the African American community. It is proven that African Americans are three times more likely to get the virus and die from it.”
Girtman also hopes to get vaccinations to the most vulnerable populations.
“I’ve asked that we be able to resource locations,” said Girtman. “I’ve asked that we be able to target under-resourced communities, underserved communities, Black and Brown communities, the disabled, those in remote locations and any specialneeds populations.”
The local health department and Volusia County have more vaccination events planned.
“We will continue to vaccinate but everything depends on getting doses of the vaccine. We get our allocation from the state. We are waiting on the next shipment we don’t know how many it would be,” said Boswell.
The Emergency Management Department and FDOH-Volusia coordinated a vaccination event in Deltona at the Dewey O. Boser Sports Complex at 1200 Saxon Blvd on Jan.7 and Jan. 8. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pre-registration was done online via Eventbrite. Doses are already allocated.
Girtman noted, “It’s critical that people who will take the vaccine to take advantage of these distribution events in the area. Those who will take it are anxious to get it. Those who take it are a great example for those who have concerns.”
“We aren’t getting a lot of doses of the vaccine. We must be thoughtful on how we are distributing it. We must make sure it’s being distributed fairly and equitably,” Girtman added.