South Florida seniors desperate to protect themselves amid surge in COVID-19 cases

MIAMI – As coronavirus cases continue to surge, many South Florida seniors are desperate to protect themselves.

Mary and Raymond Santiago were among the many people 65 and older who stood in a long line Wednesday morning to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami.

“We just came out with our shot. Jackson was amazing,” Mary Santiago said.

The couple said they were only able to get an appointment because they logged onto Jackson Health’s online portal early.

The website was supposed to go live at 11 a.m. Tuesday, but it actually went live at 9 a.m., so by the time the portal officially launched, all 12,000 appointments were already booked.

“9:29 is when I estimate we got through on the first one, and about 9:32 on the second one,” Santiago said. “My husband was on one iPad and I was on the other. He couldn’t get in, but I got in and did both of them. So again, then I notified all of my friends. Nobody else was able to get in.”

Because of a glitch in the count on Tuesday, half the people in line at the rehab center were turned away.

“They told us that they don’t have enough resources to give us the shots,” Paul Kushel said after his vaccination appointment was postponed.

They were told to come back Wednesday and staff will honor their appointment.

To meet the high demand, local leaders and healthcare executives in Miami-Dade County are planning to ramp up inoculation efforts.

The goal is to have most of Miami-Dade’s senior citizens vaccinated by early February.

“If we keep going at that 300,000 a month rate, by March or April, we could potentially vaccinate 1.2 million people in Miami-Dade County by the end of April,” Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya said.

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