COVID-19 vaccine appointments delayed for underserved west Orange County residents

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — 9 Investigates COVID-19 vaccines that were promised for parts of West Orange County but haven’t been delivered yet.

A plan to reach underserved people in that part of the community hit a stumbling block, causing confusion and frustration for organizers. People expected to receive their first dose of the Pfizer shot over the weekend, and the effort was supposed to continue for 10 days.

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“Biggest thing for this was delayed but not denied, and we are set for Wednesday. With the age groups being lowered, slots are being filled up,” said Shaniqua Rose, a community advocate with Change for the Community.

Rose had no problem convincing people who look like her to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine, offered through a special mission to get the underserved and hard-to-reach African American and Hispanic communities vaccinated.

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“We had people ecstatic, we had an individual who, them and their spouse, didn’t want the vaccine, and then when it was a familiar face advertising the vaccine, it was like, ‘hey, somebody I know that’s actually bringing it. We’ll bring our guard down a little bit’,” Rose said.

Sen. Randolph Bracy unveiled the mission last Wednesday, where he said the 10-day program would help the underserved community by taking COVID-19 vaccine doses into the African American and Hispanic communities, by working with community organizations, nonprofits, nursing homes, churches and community centers, all of which have relationships with residents in the communities they serve.

“This is a 10-day program where we have 250 doses to vaccinate people in urban cores,” Bracy said during a virtual news conference.

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This is a partnership with the state being run by Pulse Clinical Alliance in Jacksonville. They found organizers with relationships in the community. Those site leaders spent weeks booking appointments for people in their homes, and at community sites they secured.

Then, an email was sent just before the first appointments were set to start on Friday, stating, “… the Department of Emergency Management notified site leaders that there is a shortage of vaccines affecting a number of different areas, including Miami and Tampa vaccine missions.”

Melissa Myers is another community advocate who was tapped to help book appointments and secure locations to administer vaccines.

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“When you’re seeing other areas still operating at their sites and receiving the vaccination, it leaves questions as to whether or not you’re being told the truth,” Myers said.

But they are confident the doses are still coming, and the work they’re doing is important as they work to not only get the vaccine doses to underserved communities, where people don’t always have transportation to get to an appointment, but also convince them to actually get the shot.

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Appointments are being rescheduled and community sites rebooked for people like Angela Hamlett, who thought she was getting her first Pfizer shot at an Ocoee church this morning.

“I need to be able to, you know, go back in society now,” Hamlett said just before she left the site.

The organizers are working with churches, community groups and nursing homes to identify people to vaccinate through this program. They’re being told doses could now arrive by Wednesday. We have reached out to the Department of Emergency Management, first by calling and then sending an email as requested. So far, we haven’t received a response.

Community organizers are still booking appointments for in-home vaccinations. You can get more information by emailing inhomevaccines@gmail.com.