The Black residents of Pahokee and Belle Glade, Florida, farming communities located in Palm Beach County, were supposed to be getting doses of COVID-19 vaccines, instead white people from neighboring wealthy communities were given the shots.
“It’s frustrating. But it’s the state’s decision not to allow us to do an appointment system at this location. It was their decision to make this first-come, first-serve,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay told the outlet.
Pahokee’s population is about 60% Black, and nearly a third of its residents are Hispanic, yet the outlet found that most of the cars rolling through the vaccine drive at Pahokee High School were filled with white people, some of whom had never been to the town before the February 13 event. There was no signage, according to the report, and some of the white Floridians who attended the vaccine drive had been sent there by their state senators.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis put the distribution of coronavirus in the hands of the supermarket chain Publix, but the closest store to Pahokee and Belle Grade residents is more than 20 miles away. Publix reportedly made a $100,000 donation to DeSantis’ campaign, though he claims that didn’t have an impact on giving control of vaccine rollout to the chain.
Local organizers and advocates have pushed back on the governor’s decision, and now the Florida Division of Emergency Management has put vaccines aside for distribution locally.
Nationally, Black people across the country are not receiving the vaccine at the same rates as other groups, in part due to inadequate access to information and supply.
Shellie Myers, a 70-year-old resident of Pahokee told the outlet he was able to get a dose of the vaccine after attending a drive because the online registration system set up by Publix was confusing.
“I would have taken it as soon as I could have,” he said. “But I’m computer illiterate. A lot of people don’t have a computer and don’t have someone who can do that for them.”
Florida state leadership has come under fire for prioritizing vaccine distribution in wealthier communities and across political party lines. Top Florida Democrat Nikki Fried has called for the FBI to investigate DeSantis’ handling of the distribution.
Photo Credit: Getty Images