South Florida woman first to get COVID-19 vaccine in state program for Holocaust survivors

An Aventura woman became the first to receive a COVID-19 in Florida's new home program for Holocaust survivors.

AVENTURA, Fla. – She charmed Florida’s governor. “You’re much handsomer in person,” she told Gov. Ron DeSantis.

She charmed the medical team with coffee.

And she charmed the fire rescue captain ready to stick a needle in her arm.

“Does everyone stand at attention?” Judy Rodan asked the captain.

“Not everyone,” he said.

“Well, I will,” she quipped, “especially with that needle in your hand.”

With that the 83-year-old Aventura resident became the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida’s new home program for Holocaust seniors, a population that has lived through threat and horror far more insidious than a virus.

DeSantis was with a group of medical personnel who visited Rodan. She is the first of thousands of survivors who will be getting a COVID-19 vaccination without leaving their home as part of the new program.

DeSantis has been making the rounds this week to show people what the state is doing to get more vaccinations into more arms.

Earlier in the day he held a news conference Thursday morning at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, at which time he announced that hundreds of seniors will be vaccinated through a partnership with the state and interfaith leaders.

“We worked with some of the Holocaust groups, remembrance groups, and Jewish groups, and identified a bunch of folks in southeast Florida and we will be doing hundreds of Holocaust survivors over the next few days,” DeSantis said. “Then we are going to keep doing 1,500 a week, hopefully throughout the state of Florida.”

The Holocaust survivors are a group that fits those seniors that are in need of being vaccinated against COVID-19 Their average age is estimated to be 79 years old, many of them live alone, and do not have the opportunity or the means to get to public distribution areas to receive the vaccine.

Rodan told her story about her brother being killed in a gas chamber at the age of 3. And that she was the sole survivor of her town in Czechoslovakia. She escaped at the age of six with a family employee who got her to a convent.

“She made me memorize my assumed name, my assumed identity,” Rodan recalls. She would never see her immediate family again. An aunt and uncle came for her after the war, she recounts.

She lived in Venezuela, too, and escaped the hardships there, arriving in Aventura four years ago.

Rodan was happy to be the first person selected for the program and to help the governor “amplify efforts to get more people vaccinated.”

This was actually Rodan’s second shot, she said. She received her first dose at the Hard Rock Stadium state-run facility and shared that she waited five hours to get the shot. Her second dose was delivered much quicker Thursday.

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."