Evelyn Aub is a spunky elderly woman who doesn’t reveal her age to anyone. But she admits she is qualified to receive that Covid-19 vaccination in Florida, which means she is at least 65 years young.
“I am completely independent,” said Aub. “Happy as a lark.”
Aub says her home in Palm Beach County, Florida is her safe haven. Her car is her freedom and the Covid-19 vaccine is hope. And while it seemed “impossible” to get an appointment for the vaccine online, her son managed to use multiple devices to secure an appointment for the vaccine at a Publix supermarket near her home.
It’s an appointment she attended alone, driving her limo with license plates bearing her name calling for the protection of Florida reefs.
“Not at all nervous,” said Aub.
Aub is one of more than 1.2 million seniors 65 or who in Florida received one or both doses of the vaccine. And while the rollout of the shot was bumpy, Governor Ron DeSantis has been working to deliver on his promise to protect seniors from the coronavirus first.
So far, state data shows that around 71% of people vaccinated in the state are seniors.
Florida’s blind spot in the vaccine
But DeSantis’ promise has a blind spot, say some domestic workers who care for vulnerable seniors in their homes. Home health workers have fought with seniors and the state for the same vaccination spots on the same jammed websites and phone lines.
“It’s awful. It’s awful,” Stephaney Hyman-McDonald, a domestic worker, told CNN. “It puts you in a difficult position because you are younger, yes, but you are working with someone who needs protection.”
Tending to a senior battling cancer, Hyman-McDonald says she has to compete with seniors in her community, including her mother, for a vaccine appointment. Although she was lucky enough to get a spot for the first dose on Friday, the performance generated conflicting emotions for not wanting to take a vaccine that could have gone to a senior.
“We hear about this topic every day and from all over Florida,” said Kyle Simon, director of government affairs and communications Home Care Association of Florida, an industrial trading group.
Simon says that on paper health workers, which include home health workers, represent a priority group in practice. In practice, interpretations of the governor’s decree on the Covid-19 vaccine, issued on December 23, differed from district to district and resulted in domestic workers being turned away at vaccination centers.
The Governor’s order Prioritizes three groups, including residents and employees of long-term care facilities, those aged 65 and over, and healthcare workers with direct patient contact. In fact, 97,500 doses of the first round of vaccination the state received in December were sent to hospitals to be given to health care workers.
“What some public health officials and medical experts seem to be forgetting is that while it is important that patients 65 and over receive the vaccine as soon as possible, when home carers have access to the vaccines, those vulnerable patients are given a protective coating Clinicians and nurses don’t come into their homes and potentially infect them, “said Simon.
Florida has about 80,000 domestic workers, according to Simon, and only a “small fraction” of them were vaccinated more than a month after DeSantis gave healthcare workers priority access to the vaccine.
Two vaccination problems: delivery and distribution
DeSantis claims that more vaccinations will require more vaccines. And he fought the White House over the problem. During a briefing last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Florida only administered half of the vaccines it received.
DeSantis shot back during a press conference. He claimed the doses in his condition were second doses. The Covid-19 vaccines currently available to the public require two doses.
Melissa McKinlay, Palm Beach County Commissioner, says her constituents have been fighting a vaccine supply problem. But they also faced a distribution problem.
During a Palm Beach County Commissioner meeting last week, Dr. Florida Department of Health director Alina Alonso announced that Publix will be the only provider of the vaccine to the public.
And while DeSantis said last week that “90%” of the senior citizens in Palm Beach County lived within a mile and a half of a Publix, McKinlay told CNN that the remaining 10% don’t have that convenience and all live in their district, a rural one Area.
“I am utterly disgusted that the governor of this state has taken 100 percent of the ability to vaccinate Palm Beach County residents and transferred that authority to a corporate entity,” McKinlay said during the commissioners’ meeting .
In other countries like Miami-Dade and Broward, vaccines are being distributed through hospitals and government locations.
Three days after McKinlay’s public comments, she went to Twitter to announce that she had spoken to Florida’s emergency management director, Jared Moskowitz, and that some of the vaccines destined for Palm Beach County would be diverted to rural areas of the county.
“Thank-you,” McKinlay tweeted. “It’s a small step forward towards a much bigger challenge. But I will take a small step in the right direction.”
Nationwide vaccine registration system
The Florida Department of Health launched one on Friday nationwide pre-registration system Schedule Covid-19 vaccine appointments for seniors and frontline health workers.
Pre-registration can be done through the state-designated website or by calling a county toll-free number.
Simon hopes the new centralized system will streamline the process for home care workers, seniors and other priority populations.
“The county-to-county piecemeal approach clearly didn’t work,” said Simon.
After taking the first dose of the vaccine, Evelyn Aub left Publix, got in her car, and drove home.
“It didn’t hurt,” said Aub. “No problem.”
Aub says she’ll continue to wear a mask and social distancing knowing the vaccine isn’t foolproof even after the second dose.
Why she keeps her age a secret from even her closest friends, Aub said, when people find out how old she is, they worry and say “be careful” and “don’t do that” and “don’t do that”. “
Aub insists she is not treated like a frail elderly woman. “If you don’t know how old I am, treat me like yourself.”