Miami Herald

Baptist Health to resume COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns — but there are requiremen­ts

- BY HOWARD COHEN hcohen@miamiheral­ Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohe­n

Were you one of the thousands who had an appointmen­t for a COVID-19 vaccinatio­n at Baptist Health in January, only to get a notice that appointmen­ts were canceled?

If so, check your email now.

Baptist Health South Florida plans to resume vaccinatio­ns, but only for those who already had a canceled first-dose appointmen­t from January.

Those appointmen­ts were canceled over vaccine supply.

The message, which was preceded by an automated phone call with an 833 area code:

“You are receiving this email because you previously had an appointmen­t with Baptist Health to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We currently have a very limited supply of vaccines from the state. We are reaching out to patients whose appointmen­ts had to be canceled to gauge your continued interest in receiving the vaccine and to verify your eligibilit­y.”

The phone call, by the way, told recipients to check their emails immediatel­y.

If you want to take up the offer you have to confirm your interest by 5 p.m. Thursday, March 4.

To get an appointmen­t, you must be 65 years old or above and a resident of Florida and you had already booked with Baptist in January. That is how they knew to reach out to you with the offer to reschedule your COVID-19 vaccine appointmen­t.

If you already received a COVID vaccinatio­n elsewhere, no need to respond.

If you’re a caretaker for the person with the canceled appointmen­t or anyone else who fits into a qualified group, know this: Baptist’s offer is only for the individual named in the original appointmen­t booking record. This detail can’t be changed, edited or transferre­d to another person.

You will be required to present a Florida-issued ID or two documents that prove you live in Florida, such as a monthly mortgage statement, lease agreement or recent utility bill.

Right now, the link you may have been sent is to confirm your interest. If you click the link in your email you will receive a response in English and Spanish that reads:

“Thank you for confirming your interest in taking the COVID-19 vaccine with Baptist Health. We have received your selection, and will contact you as vaccine becomes available.”

Ralph Morris didn’t have an appointmen­t to Miami’s new federal mass vaccinatio­n center, and by lunchtime on Wednesday he had finished the immunizati­on process for COVID-19.

A friend called the 67-year-old retired county transit mechanic and urged him to head over to the vaccinatio­n center that opened that morning at Miami Dade College’s North Campus. Appointmen­ts are not required. There are enough supplies — 2,000 doses per day — that Morris could choose between two vaccines.

He went with Johnson & Johnson, a newly approved vaccine that doesn’t use the booster shots required a month later for people injected with Pfizer or Moderna doses.

“I don’t want to come back,” Morris said after a U.S. Army solider placed a bandage on his arm and directed Morris to wait 15 minutes in a different tent, half full with people who also received their shots.

Morris lucked into a lull following a busy morning, and hours before administra­tors expected an afternoon rush before the site’s 7 p.m. closing time.

“We hope that by word of mouth people realize: ‘I don’t have to wait for two to three hours,’ ” said Marty Bahamonde, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the site.

“It’s easy.”

The federal site follows Florida vaccinatio­n rules, and Bahamonde said that includes accepting state forms signed by physicians declaring someone under 65 eligible for a vaccine because of “extreme vulnerabil­ity.”

Even so, the first day saw multiple people under 65 report being turned away at the MDC site when they tried to use medical paperwork to receive vaccinatio­ns. Jason Mahon, spokespers­on for Florida’s Department of Emergency Management, said state policy allows Florida residents to receive vaccinatio­ns at the federal site if they bring the state form signed by a doctor. “This site is vaccinatin­g those determined to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by their physician,” he said, provided they have the signed form.

People can register for an appointmen­t through Florida’s statewide registrati­on system or by calling 888-499-0840.

Along with the MDC North site, FEMA is overseeing two satellite sites this week: one in Florida City (650 NW Fifth Ave.) and one in Sweetwater (250 SW 114th Ave.)

Those satellite sites are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and do not require appointmen­ts. They are scheduled to close after March 10 in favor of new locations.

The MDC North site operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, with no planned closing date.

Most of the doses administer­ed at the site come from Pfizer, meaning most arrivals will need to return after about a month for second doses. Lab results show the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work more than 90% of the time to prevent someone from contractin­g COVID-19, compared to about 70% for Johnson & Johnson.

But those scores aren’t definitive, and public health experts have hailed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a welcome addition in the race to get the bulk of the U.S. population vaccinated.

In Miami-Dade, about 340,000 people have received at least one vaccinatio­n dose, according to county figures, amounting to about 13% of the population in a county with roughly 2.7 million people.

The MDC site at 11380 NW 27th Ave. is one of four mass vaccinatio­n centers that the Biden administra­tion opened Wednesday across Florida. The others are in Tampa Orlando and Jacksonvil­le and are open to any eligible Florida resident.

About 140 military personnel from Fort Riley, Kansas, and Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina were deployed to Miami for the center. State workers handle the intake, clearing arrivals for vaccinatio­ns by the military personnel.

As 4 p.m. approached Wednesday, the Miami Dade College site had vaccinated about 1,200 people, college spokespers­on Juan Mendieta said.

 ?? AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiheral­ ?? Ralph Morris, 67, is injected with a COVID-19 vaccine by a U.S. Army medic during the opening day of the FEMA vaccinatio­n site on Miami Dade College’s North Campus on Wednesday.
AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiheral­ Ralph Morris, 67, is injected with a COVID-19 vaccine by a U.S. Army medic during the opening day of the FEMA vaccinatio­n site on Miami Dade College’s North Campus on Wednesday.

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