JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP sent a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry, outlining the civil rights group’s concerns about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Isaiah Rumlin, president of the NAACP’s Jacksonville branch, writes in the letter, dated Jan. 22, that the group is not confident in the city’s vaccine rollout in the African American community.
In the letter -- also signed by the presidents of the Jacksonville Urban League, Northeast Florida Medical Society Foundation and First Coast Black Nurses Association -- Rumlin calls on the city to provide a comprehensive plan.
Rumlin writes those groups and other community leadership organizations have not been involved in any planning for vaccinating the African American community.
“We have not seen a plan from the mayor’s office, definitely not from the state, as well. Haven’t seen a plan for as how they plan on distributing the vaccine,” Dr. Rogers Cain, who is on the NAACP health board, told News4Jax. “We don’t have a plan to be inclusive of the minority community in terms of serving them where they live.”
The letter makes several requests, including:
- A designated person to deliver messages from the health department and city to the community about vaccinations.
- A local decision-making body of public and community leaders to prioritize vaccine distribution.
- Expand the number of vaccination and testing sites to ensure that communities of color in the city are adequately covered. Specifically, the letter calls for the site list to include senior resident homes in zone one (which includes downtown, Springfield and the Eastside), zone two (which includes Arlington), zone five (which includes the Northside) and TIAA Bank Fied.
- Expand contact tracing and other strategies to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Cain also said he encourages people in the African Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He said it’s safe and will help slow the spread of the virus.
The mayor’s office on Monday issued the following response to the letter, saying the letter contains inaccuracies:
“While the City of Jacksonville does not control the supply chain of the COVID-19 vaccine, we want to point out the many inaccuracies (false information) in this letter.
“The City of Jacksonville does have the capacity to implement mass vaccinations as we have demonstrated through our multiple COVID-19 testing sites throughout the City. We were instrumental in bringing one of the first testing sites online at TIAA Bank Field, Legends Center and multiple additional, locations throughout the City. In addition, we have implemented testing in the very zones mentioned in this letter. These have included schools, churches, health centers and more. ( A few examples, First Coast HS, Frank H Peterson Academy and Regency Square Mall prior to it becoming a state site.)
“While we stand ready to reopen the two vaccine sites where we safely and successfully distributed our allotment of the vaccine over a ten-day period, we have also let the Department of Emergency Management know that we are willing and able to open additional sites if more vaccines become available. At this time, the Governor opted to distribute all vaccines through sites operated by the Department of Emergency Management.
“This letter demonstrates the lack of knowledge and information for how this process operates. The Federal Government distributes the vaccine to states who then in turn decide how to distribute throughout its cities and counties. We acknowledge that more vaccines are extremely necessary in every community and when and if the state informs us that they are available, we stand ready to distribute. In the meantime, the State will distribute all vaccines through the Regency location.”