JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP sent a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Tommy Hazouri calling for more COVID-19 vaccination sites in neighborhoods that have been overlooked in the past.
In the letter, Isaiah Rumlin, president of the NAACP’s Jacksonville branch, suggests that the mayor’s office and City Council members -- with an emphasis on districts representing parts of the Northside, Northwest Jacksonville, the Westside, Arlington and Southside -- should meet with community groups, medical organizations and hospital representatives to create and implement a plan to distribute the vaccine.
Rumlin writes that plan should consider the fact that the statistics show COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color.
“The Curry Administration and City Council Members who represent these communities should reach out to aggressively and with urgency to vaccinate these communities,” reads the letter, dated Feb. 9.
The letter was also signed by the presidents of the Jacksonville Urban League, Northeast Florida Medical Society Foundation and First Coast Black Nurses Association.
“All I am saying is what is the plan, for when we get the supply, to make sure that there is equity and vaccinations across the city?” said Dr. Rogers Cain, with the Northeast Florida Medical Society Foundation.
The letter references the vaccination event last week at the Clanzel Brown Senior Center in Northwest Jacksonville but points out the event was only two days.
Residents are watching the vaccine rollout closely and have also questioned why minority neighborhoods are not at the forefront.
“In Duval, they should have offered more places for the people that can get it because, the minority, they can’t get around,” said Gloria Louis, who’s hoping to get vaccinated.
Raymond Brown, who plans to get vaccinated, also said vaccinations in minority communications should be addressed.
“I like the way it’s going,” Brown said. “The only way we’re going to work this thing out is if we try together to get everybody vaccinated.”
The mayor’s office on Wednesday issued the following response to the letter, pointing out that the state -- not the city -- controls the supply chain for the vaccine:
“Mayor Curry knows the importance of providing this life-saving vaccine in neighborhoods throughout Jacksonville, but specifically those in districts 7,8,9 and 10. When the City received additional vaccine supply one week ago from the State of Florida, we acted quickly to open a new distribution site at Clanzel T. Brown Community Center on Moncrief. We successfully vaccinated 1132 individuals in two days and will reopen those sites in two and a half weeks to administer the second doses to those same individuals. We do not control the supply chain for the vaccine and it’s unfortunate that no matter how many times we attempt to explain this, the groups behind this letter refuse to acknowledge these facts. The State of Florida determines who receives the vaccine supply and they have their own distribution chains that we do not control. However, our administration will continue to work daily to secure more supply for our most vulnerable citizens. Once we are able to obtain that, we will once again work with City Council members from these districts to distribute the units in those areas.”
Last month, Rumlin sent another letter to the mayor, outlining the civil rights group’s concerns about COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The mayor’s office responded to that letter, saying it contained “inaccuracies.”
In hopes of vaccinating more people, Walmart will start giving COVID-19 shots on Friday at 18 Jacksonville sites, but its online registration site went down Wednesday. A Walmart spokesperson told News4Jax that once the site is back up, they hope appointments will still be available and hope to be able to help those who don’t have internet access.
“For people that cannot book online and they don’t have any opportunity with the system, we will be more than happy to assist them. We have a process, which is more of a manual process, where we are going to be able to do some manual scheduling and be able to contact them to book appointments through a particular store,” said Dana Pabom, with Walmart.