So far, only 1 area hospital offering COVID-19 vaccine to community

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Mount Sinai Medical Center appears to be an outlier with its decision to create an appointment-only plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to community members. The hospital has elected to take doses from its allocation to vaccinate people 75 years or older while also immunizing frontline healthcare workers.

Mount Sinai President and CEO Steven Sonenreich said he expects other hospitals to “follow their lead” in the coming days.

So far, other hospitals are not offering community immunizations. Local 10 reached out to several hospitals and hospital groups Thursday.

Memorial Healthcare System: They have received only the initial Pfizer allocation to inoculate its healthcare workers and the healthcare workers at five additional hospitals throughout Broward. They have not yet received received an allocation from the state to serve community members over 65.

Broward Health: COVID-19 vaccinations are only available to the hospital’s healthcare providers at this time.

Baptist Health South Florida: “We are currently focused on providing the vaccine, including the mandatory second dose, to our frontline employees and healthcare personnel. We have vaccinated approximately 3,900 frontline healthcare workers since we began vaccinations, on Dec. 16. Based on the governor’s order, we are making plans to offer the vaccine to seniors and other vulnerable patient populations in the near future. We don’t have details to share at this time, but look forward to communicating our plan soon.”

Jackson Health System: After the governor’s order, they will start administering doses to current Jackson patients prioritizing those 75-plus, but expanding beyond that will depend when more doses become available.

Mercy Hospital and Tenet Healthcare said they are currently not serving community members.

Most hospitals are still working on the first phase of the rollout plan, which is to administer to frontline healthcare workers.

Mount Sinai is scheduling appointments for the community who are 75 or older or a first responders. Individuals who fit this criteria can schedule an appointment by calling Mount Sinai at (305) 674-2312 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

The appointment line will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

They are not accepting walk-ins and the patient must bring a government-issued ID (preferably a driver’s license) or passport to the appointment.

Broward County’s Mayor Steve Geller said the Florida Department of Health will be taking the lead on distributing the vaccine to seniors.

Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Captain Jason Fernandez said they will begin vaccinating fire department personnel starting this weekend, then expects to broadening out to county workers 65 and older starting next week. After that, they will expand to police and corrections officers based on dose availability.

The Governor’s executive order, expanding to community members 65 and older, was not accompanied by any detailed plan from the state on how exactly they plan to rollout the limited supply of current doses and upcoming dose allocations to that priority group.

Additionally, upcoming dose allocations are still pegged to frontline healthcare workers who need the second dose of the vaccine. Both Pfizer and Moderna are two dose vaccines, so those who received a first shot over the past two weeks in the state’s “first dose” distribution plan to frontline hospital and healthcare workers will need a second shot in 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine.

The hospital groups we spoke with along with Broward County’s mayor and logistics planners in Miami-Dade County, said they were waiting to hear from state health officials on next steps.

A spokesperson from Florida’s Division of Emergency Management explained that they are in the planning stages of so-called “pods,” which are mass vaccination sites similar to COVID-19 testing sites. These could be ready by February or March.

Learn more about Florida’s vaccination plan here.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local