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Holocaust survivors get priority in vaccine for homebound seniors, DeSantis says

“We owe our seniors and our Holocaust survivors for serving as inspirations for so many people,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a vaccination drive in North Miami-Dade.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference as 500 seniors age 65 and over of 3 different faiths and all races receive their first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Turnberry Jewish Center at 20400 NE 30th Ave. in Aventura, Florida on Thursday, February 4, 2021.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference as 500 seniors age 65 and over of 3 different faiths and all races receive their first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Turnberry Jewish Center at 20400 NE 30th Ave. in Aventura, Florida on Thursday, February 4, 2021. [ SAM NAVARRO | Miami Herald ]
Published Feb. 4
Updated Feb. 4

AVENTURA — Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday announced that the state will be allocating 1,500 doses weekly of the COVID-19 vaccine for homebound seniors, and that the first 750 doses will be going to Holocaust survivors and their spouses.

“We owe our seniors and our Holocaust survivors for serving as inspirations for so many people,” DeSantis said at a vaccination drive at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in North Miami-Dade.

DeSantis said he had just arrived from a condominium complex in Aventura where the first shots went into arms of homebound seniors, including Holocaust survivor Judy Rodan, who lived through the Auschwitz concentration camp.

According to the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, Rodan was born in Berehovo, Czechoslovakia, and is considered the only child survivor from her hometown of 11,000 people.

The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County began administering COVID-19 vaccines last month to seniors who were in public housing or receiving county support. The city also sent mobile vaccination units to areas with many elderly residents to offer vaccines close to home.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who attended the vaccination drive, told the Miami Herald Thursday that she was pleased more doses would be going to homebound seniors, on top of what the county has already been doing.

“We have asked for a while for there to be a dedicated allocation for homebound seniors,” she said. “Our fire department has the capability to do that.”

An interfaith vaccination drive

DeSantis was in town for an interfaith vaccination drive, where 500 seniors got shots through a partnership with other local religious leaders and the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. included invited members of the Trinity Church in Miami Gardens, New Jerusalem First Missionary Baptist Church in Hollywood and the Islamic Center of Greater Miami, which is also in Miami Gardens.

Noshad Shamshad, 65, of West Palm Beach, lauded the effort, noting he was having a hard time securing a vaccine appointment until he was contacted by the Islamic Center by a mass text just days ago.

“It went so well,” said Shamshad, who was accompanied by his sister, Ishrat Sultana. “It was so well organized.”

Partnering with religious groups is part of a larger effort by the state to account for stark racial disparities in the initial vaccine rollout. The event was held in Aventura, which is 92.8 percent white, according to U.S. Census data.

Earlier this week, Division of Emergency Management Direct Jared Moskowitz told the Miami Herald that his agency is making several efforts to establish a presence in Black communities, primarily in churches. He said that because of historic hesitancy and mistrust toward vaccines in many Black communities, simply opening up vaccination sites there, isn’t working to reach those people.

“No matter the methodology, if you don’t restrict it to a very limited group, you are getting overwhelmingly white people,” he said.

The state has so far provided 500 vaccines apiece to 26 churches across the state, according to the Division of Emergency Management, for a total of 13,000 doses.

Over 1.7 million people in Florida have received first doses of the COVID vaccine. About 87,000 were Black, or less than 5 percent, according to state data. About 16 percent of all Florida residents are Black.

Miami Herald staff writer Aaron Leibowitz contributed to this report.