A South Florida vaccination site had so few eligible takers Saturday that it started inoculating any adult who wanted a shot rather than let the vaccine on hand go to waste.
Word spread, and on Sunday, the Florida City site was overwhelmed, particularly after local state Sen. Annette Taddeo incorrectly tweeted that the federally run site would again take all comers. The Democrat, who was the party’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2014, later deleted that tweet and corrected herself.
Frustration and confusion set in among the hundreds of people who came to the site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Among those were Kathy Benezra.
“I’m quite upset. They changed the rules in the morning,” she said.
Police had to calm the crowd when the site again enforced the state’s eligibility rules: 65 and older; frontline medical workers and police officers, teachers and firefighters over 50; and younger people with a physician’s note saying they would be endangered if they caught the virus.
According to the Miami Herald, a Florida City police officer through a megaphone told 200 people waiting in line, “If you do not meet the criteria, you will not be vaccinated today.”
“A lot of people went away once they heard the criteria, but [the line] was all the way around the block,” said Benezra.
Benezra said she got there at around 7 a.m. because she heard the site was giving vaccinations to anyone over the age of 18 who wanted one.
“We’ve been here, and now the rules have changed,” she said.
The confusion appeared to stem from what happened on Saturday.
Vaccines must be refrigerated at extremely cold temperatures and used that day once they are removed. Rather than letting doses go to waste, workers on Saturday reportedly began giving them out to any adult regardless of profession or medical history.
That is not unusual – many drugstores, for example, will inject anyone in the store at closing time if they have leftover vaccines that would spoil otherwise.
Word of what reportedly happened at the Florida City site quickly spread online, and people came from miles to the small town on the Florida peninsula’s southern tip to get their shots.
The FEMA-run site administers 500 doses per day.
Mike Jachles with the Florida Association of Public Information Officers issued a statement that reads in part, “The FEMA-supported sites are adhering to the governor’s most recent executive order.”
Many who met the eligibility requirements received their vaccine doses at the larger FEMA-run site at Miami-Dade College’s North Campus.
“It was very easy, and I’m very happy to live in this country,” said patient Magda Caceres..
“Super quick, super easy,” said patient Viviane Carneiro.
Schoolteachers and school employees of all ages are also eligible at FEMA-supported sites.
“Once the governor opened it up to teachers, I’m like, ‘I’m out here as soon as I can,’” said Angel Beswick.
For her, the MDC site was the happiest place on Earth.
“It feels like I’m at Disney World, honestly. I’m so excited,” she said.
As the race to vaccinate continues, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava urged the governor to expand eligibility requirements.
Sunday night, state officials reported 3,878 vaccinations at the three FEMA-run sites in South Florida. Of these inoculations, 3,160 took place at the MDC North Campus site, 321 at the Florida City site and 397 at the site located in Sweetwater.
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