MIAMI — A new batch of doses of COVID-19 vaccines will go into the arms of veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The doses are part of an effort to vaccinate homebound seniors across the state. Last week in Aventura, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Holocaust survivors would be getting doses of the vaccine as part of that effort.
“The fight against communism was and still is a noble cause,” DeSantis said at a press conference Monday at the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library in Little Havana, which honors Brigade 2506, the lead fighters of the failed 1961 invasion of Cuba by exiles. “The veterans of the Bay of Pigs have lived here in South Florida in freedom, they and their families have served as the backbone of this community for decades. ... Cuba’s loss was our gain.”
Bay of Pigs veterans Eli Cesar, Raul Vallejo and Rigoberto Montesinos were inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Monday event. All three veterans spent 20 months as prisoners of war before their release in 1962.
Vallejo, 77, said he was contacted by the governor’s office a few days ago to make arrangements for his vaccine.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “I knew they would be trying to help us.”
Miami state Reps. Thomas Fabricio, Alex Rizo and Vance Aloupis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo and former county mayoral candidate and commissioner Steve Bovo were also in attendance.
The Little Havana memorial has been the setting for many political events in years past, including a visit by then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 and DeSantis in September 2018 during his gubernatorial campaign. Miami’s Cuban Americans are reliably Republican voters, and Trump was the first presidential candidate endorsed by Miami’s Bay of Pigs Veterans Association.
On Saturday, Little Havana was also the site of a vaccination event where 500 pre-registered seniors got shots at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in East Little Havana.
DeSantis Monday also teased a new vaccination site to open in Miami, which would serve 200 seniors a day in “an underserved community.” He said details would be unveiled “soon.”
He made clear that seniors will continue to be the priority for vaccines until the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets FDA emergency use authorization and comes online, more Pfizer doses are sent to Florida and demand among seniors seeking appointments begins to wane.
“Once that demand signal is a little softer, you look at expanding this into other segments of the population,” he said.
Nearly 2 million people have been vaccinated in Florida, about 1.5 million of them 65 or older, according to state health department data.
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