Miami Herald

Floridians deserve a long-range vaccinatio­n schedule

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Anew, FEMA-funded and staffed mass vaccinatio­n site opened on Wednesday in North Dade. And you know the one thing local residents don’t need to get vaccinated at this Miami Dade College North Campus site? An appointmen­t.

You don’t even need a car to have military personnel in fatigues give you a shot. Walk-ups are welcome.

We commend the feds for getting the job of saving lives done — quickly, efficientl­y and without the political roadblocks that had marred even the feeblest federal attempts to address the COVID-19 pandemic before President Biden took office. This expansive approach is a big step in the right direction. And it raises this question: Has the time come for vaccinatio­n sites in Miami-Dade — and across the state — to adopt a less restrictiv­e open-door policy to vaccinatio­n?

Not so fast. Still, shouldn’t that be the endgame?

“We hope that by word of mouth people realize: ‘I don’t have to wait for two to three hours,’ ” Marty Bahamonde, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency told the Miami Herald. “It’s easy.”

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

But Florida’s rules have been anything but all-embracing. Given inconsiste­nt supplies of the vaccine, Gov. DeSantis was right to initially limit vaccinatio­ns to Florida’s vulnerable 65-andolder population­s, administer­edby well-resourced hospitals.

But after that, local municipali­ties and seniors were left on their own, which resulted in the aggravatin­g hunt for a shot, a search that favored those computersa­vvy senior citizens with a lot of time, a lot of patience or a lot of assistance from a loved one — plus transporta­tion.

And DeSantis’ photo-op announceme­nts of lucky vaccine “lottery” winners such as Holocaust survivors and Bay of Pigs vets — both worthy groups — plus politicall­y insiders has rightly fueled accusation­s that he’s putting the politics of getting reelected before public health. He is under fire for the unseemly links between hefty campaign contributi­ons and various wealthy enclaves where vaccinatio­n sites pop up. The more he petulantly pushes back, the more Floridians have a right to ask if there’s fire,

not just smoke.

DeSantis, through executive order, recently created new categories of vaccinatio­n-eligible: people under 65 deemed medically vulnerable by a physician; healthcare personnel with direct patient contact; K-12 school employees 50 years of age and older; sworn law-enforcemen­t officers and firefighte­rs 50 years of age and older.

Like we said, it’s heading in the right direction.

Now, it’s imperative for the state to announce a definitive — and long-term — vaccinatio­n schedule, something that has been missing since the governor sidelined the state’s health department at a time when its doctors and scientists should have been in the lead.

Who’s next? And who’s after that? Perhaps it’s time to throw out profession-based eligibilit­y and make it based on age. It’s past time to give Floridians some peace of mind and the ability to do some planning. Maybe they can take that summer vacation they were afraid to contemplat­e; maybe it will be safe to send the kids back to school in the fall.

At some point soon, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 should be as easy as getting a flu shot. We’re not there yet, but with smart, strategic planning, we can be.

 ?? DOUGLAS HANKS dhanks@miamiheral­d.com ?? Mario Ortiz, 66, waves his vaccinatio­n card as he leaves the federal vaccinatio­n site at Miami Dade College North.
DOUGLAS HANKS dhanks@miamiheral­d.com Mario Ortiz, 66, waves his vaccinatio­n card as he leaves the federal vaccinatio­n site at Miami Dade College North.

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