On Sunday, Jan. 3, the Florida Division of Emergency Management ran a pilot vaccination program for 500 senior citizens, ages 65 and over, at the Brownsville Community Center.
Interim Public Safety Eric Gilmore said that Escambia County was one of two Florida counties chosen for the pilot program. County Commissioner Lumon credited the Brownsville Community Center’s selection with how well the facility handled the distribution of water and ice after Hurricane Sally.
“The state reached out to Pastor Horton of Brownsville Assembly of God and me and said that they wanted to do two sites in the state of Florida as test sites for the distribution of the vaccine,” said Commissioner May. “I think they reached out to us because of the coordination we did in Brownsville with FEMA on the ice and the water distribution.”
The commissioner pulled in Gilmore, Community Health and the local office of the Florida Department of Health. He reached out to local pastors to help schedule senior citizens for the vaccine.
“I think that we probably had representation from every church here today,” said Commissioner May. “We had our Vietnamese churches; we had Pentecostal churches and we had our traditional African-American churches, as well as white churches. It was a pretty diverse group receiving the vaccine.”
Gilmore told Inweekly that 445 people had signed up for the Moderna vaccine, and he planned to let walk-ins received the remaining vaccines.
“In the first 45 minutes, 77 people were vaccinated,” he said. “We only had three no-shows and handled five walk-ins.”
Gilmore said all the county’s first-responders that wanted the vaccine would receive the shot by Monday, Jan. 4. The hospitals have completed vaccinating their employees and will begin to move the supply to their clinics. Walgreen’s and CVS are handling the nursing homes.
The next distribution stage would include essential workers, such as the city of Pensacola, Gulf Power, Escambia County School District and those employers with in-house clinics. Walgreen’s, CVS, and the pharmacies at Publix and Walmart are expected to handle the distribution to the general public.
Commissioner May talked about the importance of building relationships with state agencies and having a reputation in Tallahassee for getting things done.
“We’ve earned the reputation that we can quickly mobilize and the facility,” said May. “With the programs that we put in at Brownsville, like Escambia CARES and all of the work we do with Community Health, the governor’s office knew would could deliver the vaccine to those in need.”